Tuesday, April 16, 2013

N is for Normal

I'm here to talk about normal.

Or rather letter N in the April A-Z challenge.

I think it must be so hard to parent in the age of the Internet. There are a lot of supermoms out there, or at least women who play one online.

Their homes are beautifully decorated, their children's rooms organized by bin and color, and they bake themed sugar cookies for every occasion, monogrammed no less. They craft cute stuff in their spare time like hair bow holders that match their nursery colors, and mod-podged bulletin boards. They prepare perfectly balanced, organic, sugar-free, lunches that their children gobble down because they've been taught a carrot is just as good as a chocolate. They capture it all in soft angel light with gorgeous photographs that are filtered, cropped, and posted for all the world to see.

I truly love seeing beautiful photos, and I have no issue with people who post only their best side, be it home or family. I'm sure some mothers out there though, feel less than adequate when they hold themselves up next to a superwoman, and to those mamas I say if you wanna feel better, hold yourself up next to me. In fact I'll give you a stool for your aching feet and a cup of tea for your tired heart.

I admire women who are not only creative, but who make their creative ideas a reality. My house was clean, but you could come in and plop down on my couch, and our kids could play while we had coffee. We'd be interrupted a lot because kids interrupt, but we'd work on teaching them to say excuse me, to wait, to not interrupt...it's a process.

I baked and cooked and enjoyed it very much, healthy meals and cookies too. Cookies that were not monogrammed, but tasted good anyway. I took an awful lot of pictures, emphasis on the word awful, because I've always liked to mark the days and the moments and the memories. Even now I look at my brown bag full of out of focus, off centered photos, the ones I can hold in my hand because I haven't quite managed to get them in a scrapbook, and I smile.

Because I love being a mother.

And I love mothers, the perfect and the imperfect. The old, the young, the mid-lifers. The super creative who run like the energizer bunny, and the moms who think cooking means opening a can. The gardeners and photographers and the ones who drive their kids to school wearing pajamas under their raincoat. Motherhood in the 21st century has become something of a competition sport, and I don't really understand why.

I am a less than perfect mother...a mother who fretted more than she should have, who occasionally uttered the dreaded phrase, 'Because I said so', and who every now and then said let's put our pajamas on at 4 pm and eat pancakes for dinner because Mama's tired.

Because sometimes Mama was tired.

Mothering takes energy and sometimes you just run out of steam. You need a nap, a vacation, or a night out where you're offered wine instead of apple juice. You need a friend.

I'm not criticizing women who are chock-a-block full of talent...I just think we all have something different to offer, and the world benefits from the many unique strengths and abilities mothers bring to the table.  If mod podge isn't yours that's okay. I'm sure there are other things you do well, so focus on that.

I like to think of the many women whose paths have crossed mine, some since birth and some for just a season. Women whose hand reached out to mine as I navigated the sometimes mysterious, sometimes scary, sometimes just plain exhausting land of motherhood.

I think of my own mother who still mothers me. Who lets me pour out my heart to her in regards to my children. A woman who prays. I think of my very dear mother in law who has always treated me as a daughter and who always tells me I'm a wonderful mother even when I'm not feeling so wonderful.  My sisters and sisters in law...women different from one another, but each one loved for the special something they bring into my daughter's lives.  

I think of all the many moves we've made, new towns, new neighborhoods, new countries, and how God knew just who I needed next door or across the street. Neighbors who swapped child care, who drove me to the emergency room when my daughter needed stitches and it snowed and my husband was out of town and my car was in the shop. Yes all at the same time.  

Neighbors who gave my children juice or Kleenex or band aids, and me a cup of tea and a listening ear. I remember the gentle encouragement of a slightly older mom, and her very practical offer of a ride to bible study on Tuesday mornings. I remember the warm reassurance of a first grade teacher...Sunday School workers and youth leaders too. Strangers who became friends in a city across the sea. Special friends who every Friday prayed for my children, for their teachers, their school, and for me.  

I think of my sittin' at the kitchen table friends comparing notes on life with teens, and figuring out together how to gracefully go from a houseful to not a houseful. Women who had run businesses and classrooms and offices, and who now ran homes and carpools. Women who grew up speaking a language different than mine, but whose heart beat with the same fierce love for their children.  

Dear Moms-

Be kind. To yourselves and to the moms you see in real life and online life. We're all doing the best we can, making some mistakes along the way, but loving our kids as best we know how.  

And when you have an Easter where your 7 month old has twisted herself into a pretzel in her efforts to get down, and your almost 3-year old does not want her picture taken, or her cousin either, take it anyway. Don't filter out the shadows or try to photoshop that worn out, frustrated expression from your face, the one that says you've had too little sleep and are contemplating tears as soon as the lens is snapped. 

Just let it be.  

In twenty years look with new old eyes at the picture of your long ago normal day. A day you wanted so much to be special that in the end you found a little disappointing, because this was your picture.

When you look at this picture again, you'll wonder how in the world something so impossibly funny and sweet could have ever been viewed as a dissapointment. You'll laugh at your two piece dress and the bright blue sky, and most of all at the preciousness of a moment that will come racing back to you in a flash of something brilliant and perfect. 

Yes, perfect.  

Not you yourself, but the moment you captured on film. That moment you thought was all wrong with its shadows and bad lighting and uncooperative small, but mighty subjects is absolutely perfect.   

One day you will laugh and know that only in motherhood can imperfection be perfection.  


  1. I often tell my friends,"If you ever need to feel better about yourself, come to my house...as soon as you look in the door, you'll think,'Whew, it's not that bad at my house!'" ha! A little tongue in cheek, but I joke that that could be my ministry. :)
    Truthfully, I need to change some things, but your description is highly motivating. Sometimes I forget what's important.
    And I really love that last picture. It's so true. Thank you for sharing it.

  2. Oh that is such a brilliant post, I can relate to such a lot of what you've said.

  3. I can also be hard on myself when I think back. Over Christmas we were watching old home movies and Honey commented that we were a LOT more patient than he remembered!!!I was also pleasantly surprised that our house was not the disaster I always seemed to recall!

    Motherhood, it's a hard, FUN, frustrating, wonderful gig!!

  4. Oh, if only we knew then what we know now, things wouldn't have been so stressful! Trace Adkins has a great song about enjoying them while they're little; just can't think of the name of it!

  5. Well again you have totally captured some of those moments in motherhood, those moments where no matter how hard we tried, it just wasn't happening. I remember when my youngest son was in the first grade and it was picture day. I sent him to school of course clean as a whistle and cute as could be. But when I found out that they hadn't taken the picture until AFTER lunch recess I knew that the pictures was going to be of something very different...how he REALLY was, haha. Sure enough the picture came with the front of his shirt sporting some of his lunch, both food and dirt on his face (you think they have checked at least that, haha) and his hair sweaty and disarrayed and his face quite red. But he was wearing a BIG old smile and I bought it anyway thinking to myself, now here is a true picture of my happy 6 year old. I LOVE that picture! Enjoy your day!

  6. Joyce, I know I say it a lot, but you are such a great writer. This is a fantastic post and I believe should be published for all Moms, especially young ones, to read. You should really consider writing a book and I'm sure it could be on any subject and you would likely have wisdom to share. I'm going to copy and paste this over into Word and print it for my daughter and DIL to read and keep. Happy Tuesday!

  7. Too often we trying to capture the "perfect" picture ... instead of the "real" picture, the picture that captures our lives as they really are. Thanks for the reminder that real is always better.

  8. Very sweet! I love the picture!

  9. You blew me away, again, Joyce! You have captured so eloquently the true essence of motherhood. I am far from perfect...I don't even have a clue what that word means! However, I do have perfect love for my girls. They know that I'll be there for them as long as the Good Lord allows. Hope you had a wonderful time in DC...we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves!

  10. That picture says so much. So glad we have these "imperfect" pictures. Love this post- thanks for sharing!

  11. I love the picture, sometimes the imperfect pictures are the best, the memory makers, the real thing! Love this post!
    until next time...nel

  12. Yep. What you said. ;)

    Love that picture! LOL

  13. Very well said.

    I've finally decided to let myself off the hook about my mothering skills. I look at it this way. I must have been a good mother after all because my kids are still alive.

    Enough said!

  14. Well...you made me cry! Wishing I could drop by for some tea with you and your wisdom. I must be more tired than I thought! :-)

  15. We have lots of those "normal" photographs in our collection :)
    This was a great post. You touched on so many elements of motherhood. You almost should have saved it for Mother's Day.

  16. great, great post!

    A to Z Ninja Minion

  17. What a great post! Thanks so much for sharing that today!


  18. Haha "mothering is a competitive sport." Boy you have that right! No wonder so many people are on antidepressants. The sad thing is my funniest memories are one when one of us was not exactly acting perfect. I don't think we ever had a picuture taken when one out of the three kids wasn't mad about something. All this perfection is unattainable. Also I find the little kid that comes out with something unexpected kind of funny. I don't want to live in a robot family No matter how expensive our clothes and stylish our homes are decorated in 2 yrs. everyone is screaming IT'S DATED!!! God for bid.

  19. That photo could be mine--and you are correct. Give yourself a break, nothing is ever perfect, and put your feet up.

  20. So well said, Joyce. In hindsight we see the beauty we often missed in the normal, not- so- beautiful- to- us- then photos. I think it's one reason why grandparents love grandparenting as it happens...they see with those new old eyes you talked about. They aren't waiting for perfection, they're witnessing it in the moment and not wishing it away. I am not a grandmother yet, but that's what I imagine .

  21. I read something somewhere that I really took to heart. It went something like this:

    If you worry that you're not good enough as a parent, that means you ARE a good parent because bad parents never worry about that.

    The original was worded much better, but hopefully you get the idea!

  22. cute photos! :) I put my name in earlier but didn't write my blog because i didn't know how to copy & paste with the iphone.

  23. I confess, it was the photo that brought me to read this post and I loved it! The way you described the children in the photo, I can only imagine how they must have sounded while you tried to have that photo taken (reminds me of myself and my two older sisters when we were kids LOL). Thanks for sharing your Normal photo.