Months. I planned months in advance for my oldest child’s preschool graduation. I sewed Abby a dress from a pattern that was on sale at Joann’s Fabrics – a blue and white French print dress with a satin ribbon tie and the kind of whirly, twirly skirt that makes little girls spin in the grass and makes their mamas wish they’d remembered to sew bloomers – and I made her baby sister a dress to match and her toddler brother a button-up shirt in coordinating fabric.
Isn’t it odd? I can no longer imagine a life when I had that kind of time or organizational ability or foresight or planning… or a table uncluttered and unsticky enough to lay out pristine fabric and dangerous pins and other temptations for children which I now keep carefully hidden away; my baskets of multicolored and dusty thread, my pinking sheers, and my seam ripper. When I think of the havoc my kids can wreak with these things, I wonder that I even leave them in my house at all.
On Saturday, my little boys graduated from preschool. And it was strange to me that I wasn’t at all jealous of the boy in the middle of the bunch whose mama dressed him in a white button-up, collared shirt paired with perfectly-fitting plaid knee-length shorts, hair trimmed and combed, and clean, unscuffed sandals.
It was strange to me to be the mama, this time, whose boys were there with unkempt hair. Cael tall and pround in his new red t-shirt from Grandma… and old, threadbare jeans shorts… and blue, green and orange Crocs with ankle-high black dress socks that he chose “because they’re my fanciest socks, and this is a fancy, fancy day.” And Cai in his brother’s tennis shoes because he couldn’t find his own and we were late getting everyone in the car… and black dress socks “because that’s a GREAT IDEA, Cael”… and tight, grey shorts that are three sizes too small… and an over-sized, striped polo shirt that hung so low in the back as to cover the shorts entirely and make it look as though he was wearing none.
I spent 15 minutes preparing my boys for their graduation. Not hours or days or weeks or months. Fifteen minutes, most of them naked in the shower where I hollered things to Greg like, “Make sure there’s no food stains on the outside of their clothes!” And, “No! DEFINITELY NOT the black socks with shorts!” And, “Fine. If Cael wants to wear them that badly.” And, “Try to comb down the hair that’s sticking up,” which, of course, Greg forgot to do in the melee of activity, and so I spent time once we arrived at the park trying to squash down the cowlicks with mama spit.
You know, it’s funny. I think often about which way I prefer to parent. Which mama I want to be. And I do it with all things – discipline, bedtime, screen time, food choices, clothes, activities, and on, and on, and on. Which way is right? Which way is best? Which way is my True Mama North, and how do I make sure my Mama Compass is pointed that direction always?
And so, of course, I compare myself to the Other Mamas and Their Way of doing things. And now that I’ve been doing this Mama Gig for a while, I also compare myself to Old Mama Me to decide whether I’m headed the right way.
And I’ve come to this conclusion. I liked Old Mama Me. She was a fun mama to be, with her time and her creativity and her clean table. And she did her very best to have happy kids whose needs were met. The well-dressed kids weren’t facades to hide her disordered life; she would’ve told the messy truth to anyone who asked.
And I like the current Mama Me, even though I bring the mess along for the public ride more often, and even though I spit on my kids’ hair at the park. I don’t long for the well-dressed days any more than I’d long to lose the lessons that these minutes and hours and days and months have taught me.
Today doesn’t need to be good at the expense of yesterday. And my momming doesn’t need to be good at the expense of the mama who dresses her kids well and has a clean table. We all – the Other Mamas and Me, including the Other Mamas who I used to be – can point our Mama Compasses to True Mama North and travel the road together.
To my babies, Happy Graduation.
You are my True Mama North,
and I’m glad we walk the messy road together.
I love you.