Keeping it Real

Tomorrow is Mother’s day in the US; yesterday it was Mother’s day in Chile.  We are right in the middle in more ways than one.  I just read an article from the Huffington Post that I think says something every mom can relate to; it’s called “Pinterest Stress,” and states that nearly half of the mothers addicted to this particular drug;), and other social media outlets, like Facebook and Instragram, are stressed by them:(.  Can you guess why?

Pinterest is to the modern housewife what Sex in the City is to modern singles.  Fuel to the fire and (almost) absolute fantasy.  If you didn’t already have a complex about not being tall enough or thin enough, with a toned booty and fabulous hair, clear skin, shaved legs, and rocking abs, along comes Pinterest, to hold a mirror up to your kitchen table and your child’s birthday party.  Some bee-atch out there made perfectly fluffed pink cupcakes and cake shaped like a pirate boat for her children’s birthdays; what about you?  Are you good enough, smart enough, and gosh darn it, crafty?  Or will your next creation end up as a contribution to Pinstrocity?  If you don’t already know about this wonderful contribution to keeping it real, I highly suggest you go have a laugh right this minute at the same pics that are making me laugh out loud, even as I write.

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(to download this lovely reminder, click on the image).

I happen to be one of the weak souls who is particularly susceptible to over planning.  I actually like the idea of executing perfect cupcakes and pirate shaped cakes-but over the years, I have finally learned that often, while I am working so hard to make the magic moment, I miss it.  For my daughter’s fifth birthday, I was so excited she finally had some friends to borrow (through a scam we took great advantage of over the years called “a joint birthday party;)”) that I missed most of it, obsessing over some last minute details in an elaborate Peter Pan themed party.  I cringe to actually try and add how many “moments” I have missed in my life, obsessing over details.  One of the great strokes of luck in my life was having a half assed, pint sized wedding.  My sister picked my dress out while I was doing battle with the final copy of my thesis.  One of my best friend’s volunteered the musical track I wouldn’t have had without her.  My aunt brought beautiful bouquets of flowers with zero input from me about color or quantity or kind.  The day of my wedding, we did not go to the salon and get polished and buffed.  My sister and I wandered around downtown BC looking for an open salon, wondering if it was a national holiday, because NOTHING was open, and I hadn’t planned ahead.  In the end, she painted my nails.  I remember it well. Another dear friend invented a hairstyle for me the day before the ceremony-with no input from a bridal magazine of any kind.  What is my point? I remember everything-because I didn’t have time to even begin obsessing over the details.

My new goal in life is to let things be imperfect.  My daughter has now had 2 birthdays at a horribly tacky amusement park in our small Chilean town, including one ride I particularly despise, that she calls the “barbie” ride.  It is the torso of a badly airbrushed fiberglass blonde (no legs of course), and it embodies everything that Martha Stewart does NOT approve of.  I don’t either, but I am learning to tolerate it.  And to take pleasure in the moment-the sound of her glee as she crashes her bumper car into mine, the look of her face as she is swooped up in the air, under the wing of her dad, not sure if she should laugh or cry.  The summer magic of fiber optic wands she begs for-their nylon ends glittering with the ephemeral magic of fireflies, because we know that by tomorrow, their batteries will be dead, the feathery nylon tips chewed and bent.

It is easy to begin viewing every moment in life through an Instagram lense. Harder to forget about it, and be present in the moment.  This is the danger of modern life-wanting to package every sweet moment into an airbrushed momento.  But that puts us behind the camera, and turns our family lives into an episode of the Truman show, which by extension, makes us as plastic and false as Laura Linney’s character, posing whenever she can with a product in hand and a Crest smile.  We should not be concerned with air brushing our lives, but enjoying the sweet spots, when they come. If that includes some browsing fun on Pinterest, so be it, but just remember, not enough Martha Stewart is Martha enough to do it alone, and we definitely aren’t, and you ARE good enough, smart enough, and gosh darn it, people LIKE you! (especially your kids):)

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Love at First Sight

Paper Cranes

My daughter was adopted.  Once.  I say this to make a little point that it is not a chronic disease, or present tense verb.  She knows all about it, and at funny, unexpected moments, likes to mention it to strangers and friends alike.  I overheard her very recently taking to a friend about babies.  I think they were playing dolls.  Somehow, it seemed relevant to her to mention to her friend that I (as in “my mom”) had never ‘had’ a baby.  Her friend scoffed and said, “what about you, silly?” H mentioned very casually “I have another mother.  I was a baby in her tummy, and then I was my mom’s.”  Her poor little friend, who had never hear a word of this story before, wasn’t sure at all how to take it,  and so they picked a new subject.  Just as it should be.  The sky is blue, dinosaurs rock, I was adopted once.  But, just to put a little parenthesis on it, H ended the story the way she always does. “My mom always wanted me.”  And if you’re at all confused, by mom, she means me.

This week will be Mother’s Day, and I can’t ever let it pass without a little hail Mary and a shout out to the good Lord who sent her my way, and let me keep her after all.  I DID always want her-every curly haired, cleft chinned, brown eyed, yell-talking, funky toed inch of her.  And the minute I saw her, I knew.  You may call it revisionist history, but I was there.  She is as right as she knows.  We are a pearl and a pea in a pod. We chafe against each other sometimes because we’re made of different material, but from even a very small distance, you would never guess it.  And we fit together just the same.

She likes to hear stories about when I was a child.  It surprises me sometimes how interested she is in them, and how bored by stories about herself.  “Let me tell you about the first time your father saw you” I’ll offer, and she’ll roll her eyes and sigh, and say with bored intonation “I know, I KNOW.  He said you never told him how pretty I was” she says in a sing song voice, as though it’s too tired for comment.  And then she requests a new story about old times.  “Tell me a story about when you were a kid,” she insists.

Someday, I hope she knows how spectacular and miraculous our life as a family is.  Sometimes, I’m ashamed to admit, I forget.  Our big anniversary is the 4th of July, but even that frequently passes without comment, as often happens in our sing song lives.  The miraculous becomes mundane, and we look for a new story to tell.  But sometimes, the old ones are best.

In biblical times, it was practice to build an alter out of a pile of rocks each time God did something worth remembering, a kindness, to his people.  I often reflect on this practice, and think about the wisdom there is in it, because we are all so human.  And to be human is to forget.  It is to be swept away by the latest and greatest worry or desire, and to forget all the moments of grace and redemption that have come before.  It is so easy to forget about the near misses and  last minute resolutions that we experience; to be consumed by worries about the future.  I think this is why God once commanded his people to build alters.  He knew they’d wander past them  every once in awhile in the literal desert of their despair, and remember their blessings.  Sometimes, we need rocks to remember.  We need a reminder, so we can tell ourselves and our children the stories of what went right.

My sister posted a picture of my niece today, a three year old mini-her, getting ready for a CT scan, for her one year check up after a major surgery that corrected a condition that, in another country, another decade, or even on another health plan, could have left her blind and retarded.  Instead, she is a healthy, happy, spunky, naughty, delicious 2 year old, with white blond hair, a Samantha Mortenson overbite,  and a penchant for charming the pants off anything that moves.  These healthy, happy girls, hers and mine, are not small miracles.  They are our personal Illiads.  And I think we are equally grateful for our happy endings.  I know they don’t happen to everyone; that’s what makes happy endings remarkable.

I saw an image today that was too terrible for inclusion, but to give a context, it was in reference to the atrocities committed by Kermit Gosnell, the Philadelphia “doctor” who essentially murdered hundreds of babies in what is euphemistically called “late term abortion.” I can’t read about this without thinking that each of the children murdered by the practice may have been the child another woman, like me, “always wanted,” as my Bean likes to say.  Every fairy tale is built around a nightmare-if you don’t believe, pick up an original copy of Pinnochio or Sleeping Beauty-and this is no different.  As we think about the gifts of motherhood, they are framed in stark contrast against the losses.  My daughter’s birth relative (mother) didn’t know she was pregnant until she was 3 months along; apparently, Philadelphia allows abortion until 24 weeks.  Think about that-that’s 6 months.

ImageMy child very easily could have been scraped out of someone’s womb, like so much unwanted baggage.  So I also think, on this holiday, of the person who chose life.  Who gave her to me.

Holidays are like alters; they sit there on the calender, waiting until we come around again, to remind us of different important truths.  May your mother’s day be as blessed as a pile of rocks, whether it is with stories you mother told you, or stories you have told your children;  Happy Mother’s Day mommies everywhere, and 100 cranes for those who dream of the child they have always wanted; a toast to your first rock.