Finding the Magic
So many mothers today want to be perfect, to do everything right, as though parenthood is a series of difficult gymnastic skills, that if you only try hard enough, you can land perfectly for those Olympic judges watching. I don’t know how this evolved. It certainly wasn’t present in the sixties and seventies when many women drank, not in spite of being pregnant but because they were pregnant. My mother was surrounded by equally young, just barely-out-of-college, new moms. They did not compare who was parenting better. They read interesting books and tried gourmet recipes, while their kids waded in the kiddie pool in the backyard unsupervised. How did it come to this?
Since I was pregnant with my first child in 2002, I have been criticized for the following: gaining too much weight in pregnancy (um, I was hungry); not carrying my daughter around in a Snuggli so that we could bond (it hurt my back); not giving her enough educational stimulation in the form of books and videos (she was happy sucking on a spoon); and feeding her too much food for a baby (given that she dropped a lot, we had to start with more). For my son two years later, it was that I shouldn’t have let him cry himself to sleep (I needed to sleep!); that he was too aggressive in school (he was 2 and he liked to hug people!) and on and on. The stay-at-home moms thought I worked too much, at 10-20 hours per week, and the working moms were sure that I didn’t work enough, since I clearly had time to eat Bon Bons in between raising kids and working part-time.
Even now that my kids are older, the criticism continues in a form of micro-aggressive comments from mostly other moms who feel that they are competing with me for the one Great Mom! prize. (As if.) All these jibes become a buzz in your head that never goes away, even when you’re camping in the woods as I was last weekend. I’ve had moms in the past at the Mom’s Weekend at my daughter’s camp tell me that I was doing the origami project wrong and that I needed to listen better (really?), and that I should climb to the top of the 40 foot tower since other moms were doing it, even though I have a genetic and paralyzing fear of heights. But this weekend, with insane weather patterns, alternating between 95 degree blazing heat and intense rainstorms with thunder and lightening, I had to let all the shoulds go. I just accepted that I wouldn’t be on time or even participate in all the classes, because we had to get our tent up, or I had to sit in the shade because I couldn’t handle any more than three hours playing in the lake by the afternoon. I had to be ok with not being like most of the moms, running like crazy people from one impossible activity to the next. I was more concerned frankly about getting hit by lightening, staying in a soaked tent all weekend, or collapsing from heat exhaustion, so I listened to what I needed and what worked for me, even if the chorus of judges didn’t approve.
The result? A magical weekend and none of the magic was planned: ditching yoga class in the middle of it to run with my daughter in a rain storm and get our tent put together with another mom’s help (who came out of nowhere and disappeared almost like an angel); making up a rap song about broccoli with my girl with drum and kazoo that brought down the house; getting up really early the next morning (which was easy to do because I hadn’t slept at all) and finally do the Polar Swim together, going down the water slide and playing with inter tubes and splashing and laughing; jumping on the water trampoline and then capsizing again and again on the paddle boards since we both tried to stand up together; sitting in the cabin with teens listening to the sounds of thunder and singing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” to them to cheers, and seeing my kid’s proud smile; eating snacks and giggling outside till way too late, glad about having fun and being alive.
None of that magic was on the schedule, and most of it would have been missed if we had had the perfect weather and if I had rushed around sticking to the perfect schedule, like so many exhausted moms. How many of us miss a chance to lie on the grass and look up at clouds with our kids because we’re rushing to the next activity? How many of us insist on our idea of what a perfect day should be, possibly missing the magic that happens when we let go of trying to be perfect and do everything and control the unexpected, like the weather?
To find your world stage, try to let go of the reins of perfection and control and realize that the best moments occur when we’re not looking and have other plans. This week, try to do less and plan less and be less perfect in all things, knowing that magic just might creep up on you.