This morning started out how most mornings do: we overslept and the rush was on. My daughter had a fever and was very whiny so it took longer than usual for me to get ready, as I was holding her all morning long. Thankfully, it was gym day today for my son, so I didn’t need to find the uniform belt and shoes I always promise to myself that I will lay out for the following morning but never, ever do. Still, I grabbed something quickly to put on, braided my hair, and announced to my son that it was time to go. He joked with me and asked if I was wearing the same outfit again.
In my defense, I have about seven jean shirts, 10 white t-shirts, and countless black skinny pants (okay, they are leggings). In his defense, he’s heard me make fun of myself. But for some reason, I looked in the mirror and thought how nice it would be if I could fit into my beautiful clothes, hanging perfectly in my closet, just waiting for me to squeeze into them. How amazing would it be if I were the mom who actually did her hair instead of the one minute braid mine usually ends up in.
As we were leaving, my daughter melted down, crying for daddy. This is unlike her and I know it was the fever talking, but it made me pause and hold her longer. My son, usually not prone to meltdowns either, had one because his sister had lost new and tiny toys he had bought with money he had saved. His plan was to take them to school today to trade them at recess, but they were nowhere to be found.
Eventually, we made our way to the car, already very late. We drove to the school and many roads were closed making a detour necessary and adding five more minutes to our lateness. I quickly ushered him into school and took him to his classroom, but I could tell he was embarrassed. The class was already in circle time and the teacher asked me if I had switched the lunch count in the office when I signed him in. While he didn’t show it, I know his look and he secretly wished I were more organized. And I walked back to the car, snotty toddler in tow whose curly hair was totally unruly, and I sat in the driver’s seat and stared, willing myself not to cry because I think that will eventually embarrass him, too. And then I drove my daughter to my parents’ house and set off to my morning of teaching. And that made me feel badly, too–leaving her with a fever.
All day, the failures of the morning clouded my mind. Why couldn’t I be more organized in the morning? Why couldn’t I do my hair or wear something other than jean shirts and leggings? The inner critic was strong today as I held my daughter and finally put her down for a nap. I wrote and cleaned up, put away like two pieces of laundry and started looking for something to make for dinner (which ended up being macaroni and cheese and canned tomato soup. I know; this didn’t help my feelings of inadequacy. )
Later in the day, a mother of one of Matt’s classmates posted on my Facebook timeline to tell me that Matt had shared his snack with her daughter, who didn’t have one at snack time. She applauded me and him. It was a small thing but it meant so much to me.
Later, my husband arrived home with our son, and both of them were beaming: my son had the idea to buy me a peach tree for our orchard. I have been talking about it all summer, ever since we moved in, and today, after school, he picked one out for me.
It was almost as it I was being reminded that I am doing good work here with these kids. I might be unorganized in the mornings and it’s true that I am a horrible cook. But I pack extra snacks and have raised a boy, kind and empathetic enough to share them. I might not fit into my size four jeans, but my daughter won’t grow up obsessing and thinking her body is her masterpiece. Her mind is her masterpiece and I aim to show her that. I might rush from time to time with all that I’m juggling, but my kids know I will rush to them, day or night, no matter what. They come first over any single thing and they rest in that knowledge. I might be many things–too emotional or too sensitive–but I have a boy and a husband who want to buy me peach trees. These are no small things.
So, tonight, resist the urge to say what you’re not and focus on all that you are.
Thanks for Mothering the Divide with me as we all go easier on ourselves. Our kids will watch and learn how to do the same by our example. And today, as we planted our new peach tree, I watched and thought how I will always know and I will always remember it as a symbol of the love a small boy has for me despite my imperfections.