Anybody remember career day? You know, that day in elementary school when the halls are overrun with tiny nurses, teachers, policemen, doctors and firemen! That day when we use all of our 6 years of life experience to answer the age old question… What do you want to be when you grow up?
I still remember mine like it was yesterday, I wore my favorite church dress, dug out the little white purse that I had gotten for Easter, selected my favorite baby doll and stood before my 1st grade class, complete with toothless grin to exclaim that I wanted to be a Mother when I grew up!
And although I dabbled and dreamed of many other careers over the years, raising a family was always my ultimate goal. It would happen just like this… Boy meets Girl, Girl falls in love with Boy, Boy marries Girl, Boy and Girl have perfect baby! Life would be filled with love and laughter, trips to the park, days at the ball field or evenings at dance class, family vacations, school recitals, and backyard BBQs. I was never under the illusion that it would be easy, but I could make it incredible. And before I knew it, I met the boy.
Money was tight, really tight. We were young, really young. The house was small, really small, but one thing held true….We loved eachother and our little boy was perfect!
As a new mother, I quickly realized that the standard of motherhood was much different than that I grew up with. Kids were no longer just kids that played in front yards and made mud pies. It was the year 2000 and it was definately a generation of Kid 2.0. The mom friends that I met were talking about preschools and reading programs, sports as toddlers, art classes as babies, and learning to swim before they could walk.
By the time my precious boy was 6 months old, I started to feel myself and my idea of motherhood being contaminated by comparison. I started to examine myself, my child, my husband, my home and this was way before I ever even heard the word FaceBook.
And as baseball games and school plays were replaced with speech therapy and meltdowns, my “sickness to feel successful” festered inside me. I loved my baby, but this wasn’t the dream I had invisioned for my life. Park days were short and usually ended in judging eyes from my fellow supermoms. Family vacations were only a dream as we were struggling to pay for services our insurance didn’t cover. And the thought of a Backyard BBQ was laughable considering that I was so deep in self pity and depression that the thought of seeing a somewhat “perfect family” was more than I could bare. Somehow I had achieved my goal, the dream had come true, I was raising a family, but I was miserable.
To the outside world, I was pretty good at making it look like I had it all under control. I attended the birthday parties, kept up appearances at church, and of course I devoted my time and energy to making sure that Isaac was getting the best we could possible provide him. And although, it wasn’t what I “wanted” my life to look like, I was determined to create a life for him that he deserved. But you can only maintain a facade for so long and of course the cracks began to show… jealousy and discontentment were my closest companions and with my two best friends always at my side…there just wasn’t room for anyone else. I didn’t want to see people enjoying a life that I couldn’t have. I didn’t want to be pitied or for people to look at my baby as “broken or less”. And most of all I didn’t want people to see the truth… That it wasn’t my child or his dignosis, it wasn’t the lack of money or the late nights my husband worked, and it wasn’t other people that was preventing me from from having the life I dreamed of… It was me.
I knew deep down that the problem was my own, a heart issue that I had prayed to just go away. That thorn in my flesh that I just couldn’t remove. I didn’t want to be this person, I wasn’t this person, but I felt powerless to defeat it.
As Isaac grew, it ebbed and flowed…or it just got easier to hide. When Avri arrived I thought I had finally kicked my bad habit of bitterness. She was that kid! The kid who took the dance classes and sang the sweet little songs. Now, I could be that kind of mom that I envied so much. Imagine my surprise when those same ugly feelings reared thier ugly heads once again. Even though she sang the songs and danced the dances, she stood in line and sat at circle time, she potty trained herself and sang her ABC’s by age 2…there was always a child who sang it better, picked up the steps faster, or was always one step ahead. And as our sweet Eli entered our family and my world was once again rocked by the A word, I literally reached my breaking point.
Eli’s journey was so different from Isaac’s. I thought I knew what to do, how to help him, what to expect, but I had no idea. My petty discontentment soon shifted into fear, confusion, and anger. Fear for his future, confused on how I could possibly help him, and angry at myself for still being stuck in this pit I had created for myself. It was time to flip the script on perfection. Who decides what makes a life beautiful or happy or successful? And what have I taught my children? While I was out screaming for acceptance and speaking out against discrimination, I had been our family’s own worst enemy every time that I believed that we weren’t enough.
An amazing thing can happen when you allow your eyes to be opened. When you see your children, your husband, your life clearly for the first time. I know that the lives you see on your feed seem perfect. I know it feels like “if he could only talk”, “If we could only get through this hurdle of anxiety”, “If we could just make a little more money”, “If we could just have a child”, “If he just worked closer to home”, that things would be better. It’s just the lie that steals the joy and beauty of the here and now. It blinds you from the gifts that are right in front of you.
I still don’t have it all figured out, I’m learning every day. There are still days that I flip on the computer and daydream of seeing him all suited up for a game or hearing him sit and tell me all about his day while I laugh at his funny stories. There are still days that I wonder if he will ever know what it’s like to have a first love or look into the eyes of his newborn child. I can’t help but have big dreams for him and I believe those dreams are possible, but I’m learning that those aren’t the only ingredients to a wonderful life.
At 6 years old, Eli’s life looks much different than many of his friends and as he gets older I’ve watched the gap between them grow. But at the end of each day, I look at him and see how incredibly happy he is. I see this little boy who laughs so freely and loves so real. I get to experience his innocence for a little bit longer and I get to see how he influences those around him to slow down and look at the world differently. How many of us can say that we can do that?
Each of my children will have lives and goals that all look very different, but I am confident that God’s plan for them will always be perfect! Their lives will all be different, but not one of them will be less.
My story will never be like yours and your story will never be like mine… It’s different, not less. It’s beautiful and ugly, joyful and filled with sorrow, it pushes you to be more than you thought possible and uncovers your utter weakness. It’s so short even when the days feel so long. It’s not perfect or easy, but it’s yours. Celebrate the wonderful, crazy, mess that is your life!!! Nothing compares to you and yours my friend!