Back then, I was a planner. I planned activities for the moms at church - not because I had to but because I wanted to. I hosted parties and invited people over to my house. I looked forward to social events, and I thought of reasons to have them. I ran myself ragged preparing for said-events, and I enjoyed every minute of it.
One day, I had planned an Easter egg hunt for the preschoolers at church, just like I had done every year for the last 5 years. I got to the church early and hid all the eggs. Remember, this was Florida, so it was about 300 degrees outside. (No, I’m not exaggerating. It’s my story. Let me tell it.) Then, I set up tables and made coolers of drinks and got everything ready for my friends’ babies, so they could find eggs. Everyone showed up and had a great time. At least, I heard they had a great time. I was too busy running around to actually see the egg hunt. Toward the end of the party, one of the big trash cans was full, so I went to empty it. Mr. Everything was at work, so I was chasing the Beetle and the Goose while managing this whole blessed event. The moms were all standing around talking and watching preschoolers. The dads were all standing around talking. I went to empty the garbage.
Before I went to lug the huge trash bag to the dumpster out back, I asked a “friend” (I use the term lightly) to watch my kids for me. I knew the Beetle would be okay, but it was the Goose I worried about. She was the kind of toddler that I had to keep an eye on at all times. In fact, if I heard another child crying, my response was usually, “Where is the Goose?? What did she do??” And, usually, she had done something. So, I asked this “friend” to watch the kids so I could walk past the dads who were chatting, and I could go empty the trash can. (Do you see any issue here? It still makes my blood boil to think about it.) I emptied the trash and handled the rest of the party with ease.
The next day at church, this “friend” approached me and said she needed to talk to me. She proceeded to give a 10 minute soliloquy on how “we” needed to make sure “we” were putting “our” children first in “our” lives. She told me in no uncertain terms what a bad mother I was because I was planning events instead of watching my kids. Apparently, the Goose had hit this woman’s precious princess while I was hauling the trash to the dumpster. I pointed out to this “friend” that I had not just abandoned my children, and I had, indeed, asked her to watch them. She said she was aware of that, but “we” still needed to choose “our” priorities. It was that day that “then” became “now.” I chose my priorities. She was right, and although she had a terrible way of explaining it, she made a good point. I quit planning events and took care of my kids. By the way, since “we” chose “our” priorities, “we” decided “we” would chose “our” friends a little more carefully too.
Back then, I followed the Fly Lady. In case you aren’t familiar with the Fly Lady, you can visit her website at flylady.net. At that time in my life, you could drop in at my house at any point, and you would find a clean kitchen sink and sparkling floors.
Since then, the one thing I have maintained from my Fly Lady days is the saying, “Housework, even if not done like your mother would do it, is still done.” (Sorry, Mama, but it’s true.)
Now, however, I can not claim to be Flying. In fact, if you call me and say you’ll be at my house in 30 minutes, I can assure you that the next 28 1/2 minutes will be spent with me barking orders at my kids and husband. “YOU! Pick up those dirty dishes!” “YOU! Get the dirty socks out of the middle of the floor!” “YOU! Get the softball equipment out of the bathroom!” (True story.) Don’t get me wrong. We don’t live in filth, but we certainly are not prepared for surprise visits. (Hint, hint… Please don’t show up unannounced!) Come to think of it, maybe I need to do a refresher course in Flying.
Back then, I baked. A lot. I baked cookies and cakes and brownies. I made homemade candy occasionally. I sold wedding cakes and birthday cakes. If you had a baby or bridal shower back in the day, chances are, I made the cake for it.
Now, I don’t bake. Now, I sit on the couch and edit, and I read recipes to whichever child I can convince to go into the kitchen. Yesterday, I convinced the Beetle to bake chocolate chip cookies. He finally agreed and asked where the roll of cookie dough was. It was at that point that I broke it to him that cookies could, indeed, be made from scratch. After several sighs and an eye roll or two, he made the cookie dough. An hour and a messy kitchen later, we had some mighty fine chocolate chip cookies.
Back then, I cared what everyone thought. I worked to please 100% of the people 100% of the time. I made myself crazy worrying about what everyone else thought. The fact that I did not have “in the box” kids did not help. I was constantly stressing out that other people would think my kids were not good, special, wonderful, amazing (you fill in the adjective). My kids typically did not do things the way other people would expect them to. They both definitely marched to the beat of their own drums, and those beats changed day to day. This was hard for me to accept, because I wanted other people to think my kids were as wonderful as I did.
I regret how much time I spent trying to make the Beetle fit the mold. He was (and is!) a very unique kid, and I wish I had just let him be. By the time the Goose was born, I had realized this, and I let her be herself. The child wore her shoes backward for over a year. If we switched them on her feet, she would switch them right back. She still doesn’t match her socks.
Now, although I still have to remind myself not to care what people think, I am much better about this. I’ve lived long enough (no old jokes, please) that I realize I can’t please everyone. I used to get so upset if I thought someone was mad at me or did not like me. However, there are a few people in my life that have never forgiven me or just don’t like me. While I used to worry about it, I now realize they are really missing out. I am a fantabulous person, and they would be lucky to know me. (Wow. That’s a pretty bold statement for someone who cares what other people think… Don’t think I’m conceited!)
My “then” was pretty special. I was a good mother, even if I did neglect my children for an occasional Easter egg hunt. I was a good wife. I was a good cook and a good homemaker. I look back at those times, and I wonder how I possibly managed all I did. Although I was not working outside the home, I was busy all the time. Yet, I still managed it all.
My “now” is pretty special too. I’m still a good mother. I’ve managed to keep these weird little kids alive for 16 and 12 years. That’s something. I am still a good wife. I am still a good cook and a good homemaker. Now, I just practice outsourcing. I look at my life now, and I wonder how I possibly manage it all. I don’t have much spare time, and I rarely get to relax, but it gets done! (Except maybe vacuuming under the couch. That never gets done.)
I’m sure you have a “then” and a “now” too. You may look back at your “then” and long for those days, as I sometimes do. Just know that your “now” is pretty special too. We are all who we are because of who we were. We will be who we become because of who we are now. So, don’t regret your “now.” Just know that it is getting you to your future. (Wow. That was a very profound statement. I think I need to go drink more coffee now.) -Al