The Day I Got It Right

I’ve lapsed into that mid-life mom stage. You know, the one where moms with older teenagers or young adults begin to wax eloquent with sappy stories that begin with, “Oh, they grow up so fast! When my kids were young…” Having been a young mom myself, I know that these stories often make young moms roll their eyes, thinking, “The baby’s crying; the toddler’s covered in poop; and I think I just burned the Hamburger Helper that was supposed to be our ‘home-cooked’ supper. Will you just shut up about how fast this is all passing and let me just get through it?” Come on; admit it. I know you’re thinking it.

Because I’m in this stage of life, I’ve become very reflective. What did I do right as a mom? What did I do wrong? Unfortunately, because we’re always our own worse critic, the what-I-did-wrong column seems much, much longer than the other. There are always things I think I could have said or should have done. I shouldn’t have been as hard on the kids when they did this. I should have been more firm about that.

When mom gets it right

But every once in a while, usually when I’m talking to the kids about things they remember or when we’re all talking as a family about something that happened way back when, I’m happily surprised by a time when I got it right. Really right. 

This was one of those times.

My children were about 6, 4, 2, and 1. (Just to see those numbers so close together now makes me shudder, and know that there, but for the grace of God, was a nervous breakdown just waiting to happen!) I had the three oldest children outside “helping” me wash the car. What this meant was that they put on bathing suits and old clothes and dabbed some soapy wash cloths on the car and sprayed each other with the hose.
We had come to the end of our washing, and they had settled into playing in the water, when one of them found the thick, gooey mud that was forming right where the water ran into the dirt. I’m pretty sure that getting muddy was accidental…at first. But after the first child got muddy and didn’t get in trouble, the mud became fair game.

And I didn’t get mad. I didn’t fuss. I didn’t tell them to get out of the mud. I didn’t start spraying people off and hurrying them into the house. Instead, I hit “record” on my camera. And I watched.
They played. They laughed. They danced. They rubbed mud into their own heads and into their siblings’ heads. They even made up a song about it all.

You know what? The world didn’t come to an end because my kids were muddy. After they tired of playing, I herded them in, having them wipe muddy feet on a towel at the door, and headed them down the hall for showers. And that was that. Sure, it made a little extra laundry, but my life was not made exponentially harder because I let the kids get really dirty.

Life moved on. And kids grew up. 

And that event melted into the thousands of other events that happen in the life of a family. And I wouldn’t have thought about it any more. 
Except that not too many years ago, when I was looking at some old pictures and videos, the video of that day came up. And my older kids- who had headed into their teen years by that time- saw it. They stopped, transfixed. And they began to talk about how wonderful that day was, about how much fun they had. They sang the song along with their younger versions on the video.
And I knew it. I knew I had done something right. It was just a little day in the big scheme of things. It was just a little moment during that day. It was one decision, to let the kids get muddy and have fun instead of fussing at them and hurrying them off inside to clean up. 
I think that’s the way it is, friend. We live our lives in the trenches with runny noses and sick kids and dirty diapers and messy houses. And every once in a while we have a decision to make. Do we live in the moment and soak it up and enjoy it? Or do we shuffle through not looking, just trying to get to the next thing? Because I think that those times that we choose to live in the moment and just have fun with the kids are the times we- maybe inadvertently- do the right thing.

Mom insecurity

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