My son is watching Caillou right now and I can’t help but notice that Caillou’s wonderful parents never seem to miss a beat. No matter how difficult the situation, they navigate it without getting the least bit ruffled. They never yell. And they never ever say anything to their children that could lead them to feel shame for their mistakes. They certainly never get cross with each other. I’ve noticed that Caillou’s mother never uses that horrible mom voice that mom’s use when they’re every kind of tired and annoyed at once. The kind of voice that I found myself using yesterday while desperately trying to go to the bathroom:
I had been up most of the night with a teething one-year-old. I looked awful; tried to get ready, but nothing fits me correctly anymore. Had settled on a poor choice, but didn’t have time to fix my mistake. The house was getting more out-of-sorts by the second, and the kids were crank city. This scene went on for two and a half hours, with no real progress in any direction… but it wasn’t until I had to go “number 2” and didn’t have the courage to shut the door behind me that the horrible mom voice crept in. My 3-year-old decided to grab the only roll of toilet paper and, giggling happily, rolled it out across the kitchen while my daughter stood clawing at my knees red-faced and screaming. I felt pure misery in my soul. All I wanted was to go to the bathroom in peace. And that’s when I got yelly and whiny, and screamy all at once. I can’t remember the words I used on my tormenters but I’m positive Caillou’s mother wouldn’t have approved.
I wish that morning could be erased forever. Or better yet, that it had never happened. But what if it had never happened? If had never happened, I wouldn’t have had the chance to cuddle my little girl close, after drying her tears and whipping her snotty nose, and know for sure that we loved each other even when we were both at our very worst. If it hadn’t happened, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to tell my son that I made a mistake. That I let myself lose control and that I was very sorry. I wouldn’t have gotten to feel my heart swell, as he solemnly followed my lead and apologized for his misdemeanor with the toilet paper.
The hard thing about that story is that it’s not just a once-a-week kind of thing at our house. In fact, there’s usually a portion of each day that closely resembles the bathroom incident mentioned above. I’m not always the one to lose it, but I make the list a lot more often than I would like… and it hurts to sit here and admit that because I have such a different vision for myself as a wife and mother. A more caillou-ish vision.
This perfect Caillou-kind-of- mother isn’t new. The people of the Victorian era even had a term for what they deemed to be the perfect wife and mother. They called her “the Angel in the House.” This “Angel” was devoted and submissive to her husband. She was passive and powerless, meek, charming, graceful, sympathetic, self-sacrificing, pious, and above all–pure.
Although the standards for “Angel in the House,” notably the passivity and powerlessness, are fairly undesirable, I still find the title itself alluring. When it really comes down to it, I do want to be an angel! Don’t we all? Mothers or not, don’t we all just want to be at least pretty close to perfect at what we do?
My children are asleep now and the house is clean and quiet. And in this quiet place, it’s easy to start to dream about a shiny clean tomorrow… but even though that kind of thinking can be nice, I think it might actually be more productive to plan for my failures of tomorrow. Because no matter how hard I might try, I won’t be able to demonstrate to my children how to live a life that is completely without resentment, impatience, bitterness, etc., but I can show them how I attempt to amend those attitudes when they crop up. And isn’t that one of the best things that I could teach them? How to get up when they fall? How to be okay with admitting their failures so that they can look for the best ways to recover from them? How to keep trying?
So I’m going to try and let go of the perfect mother… the mother of my dreams. I don’t want to get rid of her entirely, because I think she provides moments of genuine inspiration in my life. So maybe she’ll get tucked away somewhere special, where I can take her out and admire her on occasion…. But for the most part, I want to focus on being great at being a human mother… a mistake-making mother who tries really hard.
Because I think I can do that.
It might be the hardest thing of all because really being this kind of mother requires me to be honest with myself and where I’m at… but I think I’m up for the challenge!
Dear Reader: Tell me about you! Do you find yourself becoming discouraged by the difference between who you are right now and your vision of perfection? If so, what do you do about it?
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Inspired by Bryanna Peterson
Remember your first bike? Mine was a boys bike that my dad took apart and painted yellow. It was already fantastic but the matching yellow streamers we attached to the handlebars made it superior to even my wildest dreams.
I named it buttercup.
The bike made me fast. It made me proud. Suddenly, I was capable and strong; Able to travel great distances and explore so many new places.
I remember racing to my best friend’s house, trying to beat yesterday’s time. As I rode, I felt free. Unconquerable. Even graceful. I remember the day I learned to ride with only one hand; then no hands.
I don’t remember the day that I stopped riding my bike.
It must have happened around the time that my friends stopped asking to play and started asking to “hang out.” At the time, the difference in terminology seemed innocent. But looking back, it turned out to be loaded with all kinds of expectations.
Kids who play aren’t anything like kids who hang out. The hang out kind of kids don’t get dirty and scraped up. They don’t get lost in the moment and in their ever expanding imaginations. Hang out kids must remain constantly self-aware. When “hanging out,” constant comparisons of myself and others seemed to come naturally. In everything we did, there was a yearning to feel more adult… Which was frustrating because none of us were adults yet.
I missed my bike during the hang out days, but I didn’t ever say so, not even to myself.
–A Note To My Lovely Reader:
If you are entering, or are in the midst of your teenage years, or just never fully recovered from them, the thing you have left behind and are desperately missing might not be a bike. It could be a relationship, or a hobby, or a feeling. But no matter what it is, I say, find a way to get it back! These things that we love and that cause us to feel true passion and joy are important parts of who we are.
Also, if anyone ever asks you to hang out, see if you can find something better to do instead.
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Inspired by all my Lovely FACES Girls
I have a theory. It goes like this: Women are sometimes so concerned about looking good that they keep themselves from doing things that will actually make them look good in the long run. So you can get the basic idea of what I mean by that, I’ve listed some examples below:
- When a women feels self-conscious and insecure, or even just overly self-aware, she smiles less and her movements are more robotic.
- When a women is given the opportunity to use her body in a healthy and active way, she often opts out or doesn’t involve herself fully, for fear of messing with her look. For example, when women go swimming you’ll often see them cautiously avoiding getting their hair wet instead of actually playing and being active in the water.
- When women wear makeup, not only does it contribute to the issue of avoiding activity and fun, but it also prohibits women from reading the cues that their body is giving them. For example, dark circles under your eyes could signal that you’re stressed, anxious, or needing more sleep. But instead of dealing with this issue head on, the tendency is to cover it all up!
I often think back to this moment in grade 12 when some boys decided that it would be funny to hold up numbered cards to the girls as they walked down the hallway. I don’t think their intent was to shame anyone. In fact, they were very generous. I was given a 9.5. And I felt good. My heart knew that judging human beings based completely upon their looks is never a good thing, but another part of me felt great. Confident. Celebrated.
All of that confidence came to a halt after the two girls who had been walking behind me sat down beside me in class. They had both received perfect 10s. Suddenly I was beating myself up a little. They weren’t necessarily any prettier than me, I reasoned. If only I would spend a little more money on clothes and a little more time getting ready in the morning, maybe invested in a push up bra… then I could have been a 10 too. Why couldn’t I just get my act together?
Looking back, the reality was that I didn’t have any more time to spend on my appearance because I was more concerned with learning the material I was being taught at school. I was concerned with being a loving sister and with being there for my mom and dad when they needed my help around the house. I was concerned with really understanding my religious beliefs and knowing what I wanted for my future. With all of that going on, how was it in the least bit appropriate for me to criticize myself for not taking more time to make myself look sexy?
Here are some things I’m feeling done with:
I’m done with looking around a room and comparing myself to every other woman to find out if she’s better looking than me… wondering if I should have done more to myself that morning to up my rating a little bit.
I’m done with examining myself in every single surface so that I can fix or adjust the flaws that always seem to be there.
I’m done with feeling afraid that when I move in certain ways or try new things in front of people, my body will look ugly or unnatural.
If living my life to the very fullest including doing my best to be truly healthy and participating in a regular grooming routine gets me a 6 out of 10 on the beauty rating scale, I’m okay with that. I’m okay with that because I don’t want to be judged singularly on how I look. I’m okay with it because I don’t want my opinion of myself to be based on how I look. I’m okay with that because I feel the most happy when I’m laughing. I feel the most energetic when I succeed in a physical challenge, and I feel the most love when I’m able to make someone’s day. All of those things, in my opinion, look good… and none of them come from a place of comparison or of feeling inadequate.
So how do I get out of the habit of obsessing over the way I look? How do I stop comparing myself to other women? How do I succeed in living the kind of life that I really want?
I don’t have all the answers, but one way I’m trying to answer these questions is by going without make-up for an entire year.
I’ve chosen to do this for so many reasons but one is because I want to look like the kind of “good” that relates directly to the things I actually value in life. I hope that by not wearing makeup, at least for a while, I can understand what that means for me.
Wish me luck!
P.S. For those of you who know me and are thinking: “What are you even talking about? You didn’t wear much make-up before anyway!”
…This is about freeing myself from thinking I should always be doing more. It’s about realizing that it’s okay to have zits; they happen. That it’s okay for my eyes to be puffy and red because I’ve been crying. That sometimes I’m going to look pale and tired but that I don’t have to immediately fix it. That it’s okay to look exhausted because I’m pregnant with baby number 3! Basically, that I’m allowed to look the way I look and be the way I am 🙂
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