It’s 5:15 am and my alarm is blasting the soundtrack to Guardians of The Galaxy. There’s something about waking up to Redbone that makes the morning a little more manageable. I run through the list of things that must be accomplished today and decide on the appropriate outfit that will allow me to both wrangle toddlers, but look polished and put together, and yet not be upset if paint somehow ends up on the back of my pants. It’s a delicate balance for sure.
Once dressed, I head to the bathroom and catch my reflection in the mirror. “Decent”, I think as I wash off last night’s sleep and decide to skip make-up because it’s just going to get wiped off or sneezed on at some point today. I settle for SPF moisturizer and mascara and call it good. All at once I am taken back to years of prepping in the mirror getting ready for volleyball games or putting on stage makeup for theater performances. Where did that girl go? When did I forget what it felt like to have the rush of excitement wash over me as I challenged my physical and mental capabilities? At one point I used to look in the mirror and see all of the possibilities, now I just see all of the problems. My thoughts are interrupted by rustling on the baby monitor and I see my little girl perk up from her sleep. Back to reality I think and I flip off the bathroom light, leaving the past me stuck in the mirror.
With a long stretch and a sleepy smile my toddler rolls over and catches me staring at her in her crib. She springs up and grabs all of the lovies that slumbered with her last night. A baby doll, a mermaid and her chicken Wubanub find their way tossed over the crib railing and onto the floor; her way of saying she’s ready to get up. I pick her up and snuggle her close. She melts into my arms and squeezes my neck tight. Her warmth washes over me and I whisper a quick “thank you” to the heavens for letting me be her mama. And just like that the moment is over. She wiggles out of my arms, ready to embrace the day. Since the day she was born, my daughter has always woken up with a smile, excited to see what the day holds for her. I envy that about her. Already at one and a half, she greets each morning full of joy about the potential and possibilities the day holds.
I have forgotten how to do that. How to be excited about each day, instead of dreading the tasks to be done or longing for the next weekend, vacation or paycheck. Parenting does that to us. We slowly start handing over little pieces of who we are in order to better predict the needs of the children we are raising, in turn forgetting what make us excited, inspired, or really just us.
When I first became a mom, I struggled with the loss of who I once was before children. I used to do it all. I played sports, wrote poetry, excelled in school, volunteered with the youth in my church, did theater, went on trips and held down multiple jobs. If you asked me what I was passionate about, or what made my heart race, I didn’t have to think twice before answering. But now, I have no idea. I love being a mother, and I love my daughter. I have wanted to be a mom since I was a toddler myself. But, I didn’t realize how much of me I would forget once that happened.
I see the same thing with the parents in the classes I teach during the week. Last week we played a simple game where parents chose a scrabble tile out of bag and used the letter they pulled to list qualities they liked about themselves. To say it was challenging would be an understatement. Every parent struggled to list off things they liked about themselves, or they were proud of, or were good at. The truth is, I know each parent has talents, passions and accomplishments. As I think back to all of the parents and caregivers I have had the opportunity to teach, I am reminded of all of the amazing talents they have shared with us. A mom with a knack for painting rooms, a grandma who is a rock star belly dancer, another grandmother who sewed pillowcases that held a book, a dad with a passion for rock climbing, a mom with a knack for organizing play groups and social events, and so many more.
The magic of who we were is still there. It just gets forgotten somehow between the mess and the mundane, between the Mondays and motherhood. Maybe the real trick is not forgetting who we were to make room for our children’s needs. Maybe instead, it’s remembering who we are and passing those lessons on to our little ones. Lessons like choosing to show up for sports practice because you committed to being a part of a team, even if the coach doesn’t play you. Or, learning how to determine if bread dough is ready to be kneaded, or how to stretch just a little more to reach the next foothold in the rock wall. It’s easy to forget, it’s harder to remember. Harder to remember to choose to try something new, or make time to invest in your own hobby. We give ourselves excuses that we don’t have time, or that it costs too much money, or who would watch the kids if we invested in the passions that make us unique and fired up for life. I think it’s time for us to remember that those very things are the things that we get to pass on to our children. We get to show them what it looks like to follow our dreams, to try something new, to not be perfect, to be uncomfortable, and to be deliriously happy when we reach a goal. Maybe that looks like pulling out your old band instrument, or having a theatrical reading of The Three Little Pigs. Maybe that’s asking someone to watch your kids so you can go on a run, or choosing to knit instead of watching Netflix after the kids are in bed. Our children are so lucky that we each bring our own set of talents to the parenting arena. It’s time that we look in the mirror and force ourselves to see possibilities, to see hope, wonder and amazement at all that lays before us.
I am setting a challenge for the month of November and I would love for you to join me. Once a week I am going to challenge myself to choose an activity that I either used to love or would love to try and to just do it. Maybe I will have my daughter join me, maybe I won’t. But either way, I know I don’t want to forget who I was before children. I want to become a better version of me with children.
Comment below and share what you are willing or do this month to remember who you are and what inspires you!