Posted by Gina Perkins, Pre-School Mommie | Posted in Gina Perkins, The Preschool Mommy | Posted on 03-07-2012
A few weeks ago I blogged about going clothes shopping. I belabored the point that I couldn’t find a thing that fit my post-labored body. And while I am still trying to break free from the mom-jean shackles, I’ve been caught in yet another parenting-snare.
A conversation that I had over the weekend made me cringe as I thought back to a similar conversation that I had in the Nordstrom Ladies’ Lounge during that infamous day of shopping.
Let’s start with the more recent conversation. I was approached by a woman, a fellow mom, whom I’d never before met. Our parents were friends, so we were somewhat familiar with one another, which is why I wasn’t too taken aback when her opening line was, “So, how do you like being a mom?” There were a dozen ways to answer that question on the spot, but since I am trying to commit to approaching motherhood authentically, I sputtered out an abbreviated version of the truth. “I love it. I really do. But, it’s hard (gesturing toward my Preschooler). It’s mostly hard.” She then launched into some long diatribe about how I shouldn’t have any expectations. How I shouldn’t get uptight or anxious. Her bottom line was, “She’s three,” and her tone clearly reprimanded me to “get over it.” I am guessing that being a mom of three (Her youngest older than my eldest) gave her that sort of expert authority.
I appreciated what she was trying to do. She was trying to encourage me. I think. She was trying to tell me that it’s just DJ’s age that makes her so difficult, and that it will pass – and in some ways it’ll get harder, and in other ways, life will someday be void of the pin-dropping tantrums (or “hell,” as I refer to it). She was trying to share her wisdom from having been there, survived that. I think?
I was left feeling really conflicted about our interaction. I knew that I wasn’t being overly sensitive, because I wasn’t offended in the least. What I was feeling was something similar to remorse. Oh my gosh….The Nordstrom Ladies’ Lounge.
There was a woman in the lounge nursing her new baby as I was in there nursing Bitzy. Nursing Bitzy and trying to control my overly tired, “three year old” DJ. The other woman was clearly unshowered and wearing that new-mom uniform we can all relate to…sweats and a tank top. She looked so lovingly, so sweetly, so contently at her baby as she fed him. Her peace was calming. She politely smiled at DJ, who was standing on her head at the time. We made a bit of small talk about our babies’ ages, how this was her first, etc. And then, for some awful reason as I was exiting the lounge with my troops in tow, I said, “I think the adjustment from one to two kids was much harder than from zero to one.”
Her face dropped and she shot me an obligatory smile. The second the lounge door shut behind me, I felt a pit in my stomach. I literally cringed and shook a tightened fist up in the air. Damn me! I marched right back in and said, “I am so sorry. I absolutely did not mean to imply that my life is any harder than yours. It’s all relative, and I didn’t mean to discount any second of your adjustment.” I went on for a few more seconds, and felt her urge me to march on with her forced “it’s ok, it’s ok” mantra. So, I apologized again and finally left that poor mom alone so she could resume her loving gaze at her son.
What I realized this weekend is that hindsight is 20/20. I mean, it really is. We can all look back at past experiences with absolute clarity. Once we make it through the trenches, our perspective changes. We gain wisdom, we get some thicker skin, and we learn what we hadn’t before known – because we’d never needed to know it prior to facing it. Our confidence grows and we forget what it was like before we made it out alive.
Last week, I did a post called “I Need to Know,” in which I urged parents to ask other parents their most random questions – the ones that keep them up at night. I wanted to encourage some truth, some honesty, some vulnerability. And now, I want to challenge parents to be more compassionate.
I don’t think hindsight should make others feel judged. I don’t think it should be a self-righteous tool. I don’t think we should allow the roads we’ve traveled to morph us into self-perceived experts. Just because we’ve accomplished some great parenting feat (like making it through the Preschool years without a full head of grey hair), we don’t need to act like the cool Senior telling the Freshman that they have so much to learn.
Instead, hindsight should elicit compassion. Because we have been there, we should remember what it was like. We should recall how we felt in those challenging moments, and we should do a whole lot more hugging and buying Cosmo rounds for our fellow moms (and dads). We should say a whole lot less of “It’ll get easier,” and put our energy into empathizing, “I know it’s so hard, and you’re doing a great job.”
Parenting is a long journey. With each lesson learned, there’s a brand new one lurking around the next corner. I think it’s God’s way of keeping us humble. We never stop learning. We never stop being challenged. And, we never stop being blessed – both by our children, and by the others who come along beside us and understand us …. where we’ve been, and where we’re going.