Before I had kids, I dreamed of cuddling up to my sweet new baby, who smelled absolutely heavenly: a mix of Johnson & Johnson baby lotion, Dreft and that sweet newborn smell just radiating off of them. I dreamed of nursing my baby until his/her first birthday, and that weaning them off would be a breeze. I dreamed of taking my toddler to museums, parks and play dates in cute little outfits I personally picked out myself, and there wouldn't be any crying or tantrum throwing, and we would laugh and smile and it would be so fun...because this was my dream and that's allowed to be perfect, right?
But oh, man. Parenting has slapped me in the face, and hard, and has taught me to let go of those "perfect" standards. That sweet cuddle session? Interrupted by projectile vomit (in my freshly-washed and dried hair and down my bra, thankyouverymuch). That nursing? Yeah, well we've discussed how that just didn't work out. Taking my toddler out and about? Yesterday he wore a green T-shirt twice-too-big that bore the logo from my high school -- along with sandals typically reserved for church and a blue trucker hat -- because that's what he wanted to wear and I just wasn't fighting that battle. Oh, and the whole "no-tantrum-throwing" thing? Yeah, he threw a fit when I dared to ask him not to sneeze on someone's car. Because I'm mean like that.
So that image of perfect? Right out the window.
That's hard for me, because I'm such a Type A, borderline OCD person. I live by the motto, "A place for everything; everything in its place." I enjoy a clean, tidy house; an empty laundry hamper; made beds; and all of the boxes of my daily to-do list checked off before my husband comes home in the evening. It gives me immense pleasure and I feel like I sleep better at night knowing it has all been completed.
And some days are just like that: I can sit down at the end of the day, enjoy a TV show and sip on a glass of wine feeling refreshed and knowing that I, somehow, in the midst of all the chaos, donned my Wonder Woman cape that day and could hang it on the back of my door and sleep soundly that night. And other days? Well, my Wonder Woman cape was still in the washing machine...that had to be started again because the clothes were smelling a little like mildew after not being transferred to the dryer soon enough. Those days, the ones where I feel like I'm yelling at my toddler too much; not spending enough one-on-one time with him or the baby; can't remember the last time I ate a thing ("Did I eat lunch? Well, does the Lära Bar I ate at 8:30 a.m. count? It's 3 p.m. Whatever, we're eating dinner soon. Wait, what's for dinner? Crap.") and don't want to sip a glass, but instead glug a bottle of wine -- sometimes those are the ones I'm going to miss the most when my kids are grown and gone. The busyness, the hustle and bustle, the noise...I'll miss that all.
I'm right in the thick of it right now: most days I'm still in my workout gear, don't shower until after the kids are in bed, and just feel like I'm on the hamster wheel of this thing called "life" and "parenting" and "motherhood." I constantly battle inwardly about big and little things: "Should I work out or clean my house when the kids are down for a nap?" "Is the baby getting enough to eat?" "Why is my toddler waking up at the crack of dawn? Is he sleeping enough?" "When was the last time I kissed my husband goodbye before he left for work?" "I really need to make an eye doctor appointment." "And a haircut appointment." "Does my toddler need a hair cut?" "Wait, he just got a hair cut." "Did I deposit that check?" SO MANY THINGS.
But at night, after they've gone to sleep, and I'm wiping the tiny hand prints off of the back door glass; and putting away countless cars and trucks and construction vehicles; and folding a load of tiny laundry that will never be this tiny again...I realize that I'm going to miss it. Because before I know it, my 2.5-year-old will be in Kindergarten and in someone else's care for eight hours a day. My nearly-three-month-old will be chasing his brother across the house and I'll be breaking up fights daily. I'll be trying to hide my tears as they walk across the stage at graduation. I'll be moving them into college dorm rooms. I'll be escorted to my front-row seat at their weddings. I'll be holding their children. And I'll be coming home to a quiet house.
It's going to go by in the blink of an eye. So that standard of perfect I'm holding myself to -- and the world is holding me to -- I've got to help throw it out the window as much as it practically just flies out the window all by itself. It's like that old poem: "Quiet down cobwebs; dust, go to sleep. I'm rocking my baby, and babies don't keep."
I wrote this post because I was reminded how completely imperfect motherhood is yesterday as I was baking a cake for my aunt's birthday (which is today). I had this (again, "perfect") image in my head of a chocolate layer cake with chocolate icing, sprinkles and a cute little "4-2" candle on the top of it. So as I started to bake the cake, a certain little toddler wandered into the kitchen:
"Mommy, I want to do it. I want to help!" Admittedly, I cringed inwardly and thought, "Should I let him help? But I want the cake to look cute! I guess I can just give him a bowl and a whisk and let him pretend he's helping me. But wait, he really wants to help. What the heck, I'll let him."
So I did. And he loved it.
Yes, there were spatulas double-dipped after tasting (on his part); chocolate and sprinkles all over my kitchen; an almost-burned cake because I overfilled the cake pans because I was in a hurry before the baby woke up from his morning nap; and I'm currently still soaking said green shirt in OxyClean and really need to hit the "Self-Clean" button on my oven...but he enjoyed it and that's what his memories will be made of.
He won't remember the "perfect" birthday cake with the "perfect" icing and the "perfect" sprinkles. He will remember his Mommy making a birthday cake with him and letting him lick the bowl, the spoon and everything in between. He will remember practicing singing "Happy Birthday," and pouring yet another layer of multi-colored sprinkles on the cake. While it may look like the saddest excuse of a cake ever to me, it looks like something off of "Cake Boss" to him.
So join me, will you, in throwing the word "perfect" out the window? I'll lift the window up if you'll throw. ;)