I recently heard a woman speak at a conference. Her name is Angie Smith She was speaking to a room full of women who were there to glean from her experience in women's ministry. She is a gorgeous red-head with a dry sense of humor and a kind heart. As she introduced herself she said something like, "I have four daughters. My twins are the older girls. They might literally be the perfect children. They obey. They don't throw tantrums. They are sweet and easy kids." She had almost lost me at this introduction until she said, "And my other two, the younger girls, well they're on Ebay." The room erputed in laughter and some applause. I was part of the crowd applauding and laughing hysterically. Heck, I could have picked up her tiny ginger-headed-frame, kissed her cheek and squeezed her. Your kids are on Ebay? Me too, sister. Me too.
Brad was off work early last Friday. He suggested we go to dinner and then check out some furniture stores b/c we are turning our old Man Cave into the new estrogen-filled craft room. I faked a smile and said, "Great! Sounds great." We call these evenings "family dates", a time when just the three of us get gussied up, go to dinner and then find some unfortunate merchant establishment to let our child run wild through while we chase her saying, "Emmy, stop. Emmy don't touch that. Emmy you can't climb on that! Emmy, get down! Emmy, obey. Emmy, where are you?" It is not something I enjoy, not because I don't love my husband and my daughter, but because I'm totally sweaty, nervous and running in uncomfortable shoes the entire time. Not relaxing. Not a date.
So we got gussied up. Translation: Daddy and Emery looked like models right out of the JC Penney catalog (the new JC Penney - the cute and relevant one with the hipsters on each page). Second translation: Mama showered, remembered deodorant and attempted to put on her cutest strappy sandals that are actually a disguise for the orthopedic brand I now wear. Yes, they really are orhopedic. And they really are...old, faded and abused, because they are expensive and this mama lives on the Dave Ramsey envelope system and can't buy $85 orthopedic strappy shoes just any ole time she wants.
So being that the Phillips family is dressed, we jumped in the minivan and drive to the Olive Garden. It went fairly well at the O.G. Emmy ate breadsticks and fetuccini alfredo. Mama and Daddy walked out without food on their clothing. If anyone is keeping score, that is Emmy: 0, Parents: 2 (one point for being dressed and the second point for not wearing Emmy's food at dinner).
And then it happened, we went to the first furniture store. Emmy ran around like a wild cat hopped up on Mountain Dew and crack. She rocked in a tiny wooden toddler rocking chair until she nearly threw herself out of it only to pick herself up, say "owie" and then run to climb on a bed, stand up and then jump on the mattress. All before I could "run" across the store in my orthopedic sandals to stop her. This is store numero uno in my laser-focused-husband's stop of THREE furniture stores. That's three as in, "We just damaged property at the first store. Hope the cops don't beat us to the third store before we get there and can run through it like the parental fugitives we are.".
Score is now Emmy: 1, Parents: 2.
The second store experience was so bad that I can't describe it. I would need the tongues of angels to describe the atrocity that was "the second furniture store" experience. At one point, Emmy ran underneath a dining room table and hit her head in warp speed so hard that her body flew backwards onto the ground appearing lifeless. For two seconds. Then she stood up, hit me, and ran away screaming, "NO TABLE! GO TO TIME OUT!". The sales associates wouldn't even make eye contact with us as I ran after her trying not to threaten to beat her. We were that family. Again.
Score: Emmy: 2, Parents 2.
At this point, Mama and Daddy are red-faced, sweaty and tired. We should have known what was happening when Emmy suddenly got still and quiet. She wasn't winding down. She was pooping. And I live in Texas, y'all. That means there are no changing tables in public men's restrooms for Daddy to take a turn. It's all Mama. So I took her by the hand and began walking back across the store to the restroom. It was the 'walk of shame' as I passed well-behaved children and their horrified parents; I'm sure they were praying that our particular 'parenting style' wouldn't rub off on them as we walked by. No one made eye contact with me, which only made me feel more isolated and judged.
By the time we made it to the entry of the restroom door, Emmy was finished making a mess in her pants and she was getting her second wind. She was hopping around, swinging my hand around like a rag doll and I was done. We passed an empty-nest couple trying out comfy office chairs and I smiled weakly and said, "Here. You can take her. She's only a dollar." They laughed and the gentleman replied, "Oh heck, hun, I'll give you two." Then he winked that sweet Grandpa kind of wink that says, "you'll make it" and I smiled back. Renewed by their confidence in me I entered the ladies room to tackle Emmy's bursting diaper while she screamed, "NAAAASTY" in her loudest 'outside' voice. I'm sure they heard her from outside the bathroom door. They probably giggled and maybe they remembered a time when they threatened to sell their children to strangers at a furniture store. But they didn't shame me. Nope. They showed empathy through their kind smiles.
I often feel shame for my unsettled feelings in my role as wife and mother. I feel a sense of not deserving my beautiful baby girl and I feel shame over any conversation in which I really let loose and explain my frustrations as a mom. Listen up, I gave birth to myself! She is me incarnate. I know it. I love her - every single bit of her. I love that she is outgoing and loud and she dances even when there is no music playing. I love that she is opinionated, strong-willed and independent. I love that when she thinks something is funny she cackles with laughter like an old woman who has smoked her entire life. I love that she rocks her babies to sleep every night while she sings to them. I love that she is aggressive and dominant and cray-to-tha-cray! love that she is imperfect and needs Jesus to redeem her soul. And I love being her Mama.
But I also love when other Moms share how hard it is. I'm tired of the shame game. I appreciate a person who will let down their guard of pretend perfection and say, "I prayed and asked God to give me children, to make me a Mom. I didn't know it was going to be so difficult and exhausting. I feel so much shame for wanting alone time away from the very children I asked God to give me." Yeah, me too.
(part two coming tomorrow!)