A friend came over with her kiddos this morning, and within ten minutes of them arriving, I’d delivered her a not-100%-clean coffee cup, navigated tears from our youngest, inadvertently offered her children a snack without checking with her first, and shoveled dog poop out of the yard as the kids ran around us. As you can imagine, I was feeling like a hospitality rock star.
I should clarify that this isn’t a friend who drops in every week and just knows to expect some chaos here and there when she visits the little blue house. (I’m sure we’ve taken good care of that assumption now for playdates moving forward 😉 ). Her newest little love was born in February, and I just met him today, if that’s any indication of how we’ve only managed sporadic visits to date.
Our kids all *kind of* remember each other from playdates past, but it takes them a natural amount of time to find their dynamic together when we gather, so the first little while is a bit of a settling in kind of space. This happens while we mamas hunker down with coffee and dive into conversations ranging from parenting and school choices to life at home and the days we both spend trying to balance our creative selves with the daily challenges of motherhood.
It’s refreshing and honest, which is the very thing our hearts need when we gather the littles for a few hours of fragmented visiting and playtime. We’ve never hung out just as mamas sans kiddos, but we agree every time that we should. Someday, before our kids are grown, we’ll make that happen.
I’m not sure what it is about the pressure we can put ourselves under as moms to have things all together when a new friend comes to visit, or when we’re out and about day to day, praying that our kiddos will be on their best behavior and won’t require some crazy measure of discipline out in public. I’ve gotten “the look” from a glaring stranger more than once before as I’ve guided one of our littles through a rough moment, and I know what that feels like–it’s awful.
Sometimes, it seems like parents whose children have long since grown up, or folks who haven’t parented, or even moms whose young children are having a great string of days (I’m totally guilty), can easily forget that kids will be kids, no matter how amazing their parents are or how much good might be happening behind the scenes.
As parents in the midst of a public display of attitude or frustration from one of our babes, it feels like all eyes are on us, doesn’t it? It only takes one sour experience with a perfect stranger to begin to doubt our parenting abilities, or at least to question whether or not we can head out into the world on a given day without feeling somehow inadequate, even if only for a moment, and even if we’ll never see said stranger again.
Why do we do this to each other, friends? Parenting is hard enough without needing to offer any extra pressure in these years of sleepless nights, trial and error, and doing our very best to raise amazing little people who will someday grow into commendable, contributing members of society.
When we remember the shoes we’ve walked in ourselves, it sure seems like we should be able to muster up empathy and compassion for our fellow parental warriors. We are all in the same boat, really, battling the same battles and the same lies and the same insecurities as every other parent we meet.
My time today–with this blessing of a friend and her sweet family–fueled my thinking on all of this, because there sure is a whole lot of grace being extended when we share our space together for even sporadic stints of time. My kiddos had meltdowns today. There were challenges over toys and not wanting to share our things and navigating the waters of who gets to do what and when and with whom.
So why did it work so well, and why am I left feeling refreshed and motivated as I look toward the rest of today, and even beyond that?
Because when we receive grace and we extend it, mutually and without condition, life just works better. There’s room for getting real without hesitation, for parenting in public, for hearing one another and seeing the mamas in front of us for the strong, diligent, creative, beautiful women they really are. I know, because I sat across from one such grace-filled friend today, and it was good for my soul.
Real life is gritty. It tests and pushes us, but it also moves us forward. Perfect and all tied up with a bow have their place–in dreamy newborn photos and Pinterest birthday parties and edited images of life in 2″x2″ squares when we want to capture only the good and not so much of the hard. And oh, do I love sleepy newborn pics and Pinterest dreaming and Instagram goodness, but what I really need more of is the grit and honesty of real life with mamas who are navigating their way through the daily, just like I am.
Today was beautiful for all of its messiness. I put on a pot of good coffee and burned a sweet smelling candle, and she brought over homemade cookies and watermelon for us all to share. And we changed diapers and I shoveled piles in the backyard and there were full-scale meltdowns and the chaotic noise of littles chattering while their mamas attempted fragmented stories at lunchtime.
It was perfectly imperfect and completely real. I sure hope we can do it again before the baby in my belly is toddling and the rest are all off to elementary school. Life is simply better bathed in grace.
recharged and thankful,