‘Real isn’t how you are made,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.’ –The Velveteen Rabbit
I once was a young woman who had many things—free time, luxurious hair, and nary a laugh line or stretch mark to be found. I was lucky and had very little to really stress out about.
And yet, I did.
Now that I’m older (and, I like to think, a touch wiser), I’ve experienced things, like having three children, long bouts of sleep deprivation, overactive hormones. I know what it’s like to have the huge, weighty responsibility of being in charge of another human being. As a result, I’ve learned that in order to make it through the day, sometimes you just have to do as Elsa does and let things go. I have learned that everything actually will work out if you just let it. My fears about how to handle this great, lofty concept we call life have subsided. My priorities shifted. I may yell a little bit more, but I’ve learned not to sweat the small stuff.
I would love to tell my former self all this. I would like her to know that it’s OK to chill out. It’s OK to fumble and fail. I would tell her that you will become even more real once you love and are loved.
I would also tell her all this:
1. It’s OK to relax.
It’s OK to try hard and want the best. But it’s also OK if you fail. Sometimes you will forget your daughter’s day to be the kindergarten special helper. And she will come home and cry, and you will feel terrible. But then the next day, you’ll be forgiven. (They do that when they love you). Then maybe you’ll rock at making lunches for a week. Or one day you’ll find that you’ve got clean sheets on all the beds, and you will feel awesome. There will be good days and really low days. But they balance out. So, please forgive yourself, too.
2. Your marriage won’t get boring or tired and dull. It will actually get better.
Yes, many of the clichés are true. You will both be tired and cranky. You will buy a minivan, and your lives will be about who’s taking the oldest to gymnastics and the youngest to dance. You will fight over parenting styles. You will wonder if he always chewed that loudly. You may spend your long, lonely days on maternity leave resenting that his life didn’t change in the same way yours did. You may grow tired of being the one solely responsible for organizing activities and playdates and appointments.
But he will surprise you. He will pack lunches and cook dinners and do hair and read princess stories with all the voices. He will say things to you—really incredible things—like, there’s not much he can’t do with his daughters that he could do with a son. He will laugh with you, and sometimes you will both laugh so hard that your sides hurt and you can barely breathe—mainly because you are both so over-tired, but also because you still find each other really funny. He will still try to cop a feel when you’re in sweats and haven’t brushed your teeth (bless him). And you will love each other on a new level. Enjoy it. You’ve got one of the good ones.
3. Your boobs will never be the same.
The sooner you just accept this fact and move on, the better. Your body will change. You will utter the phrase “What the…?!” too many times to count when looking at yourself closely in the mirror. There’s no point staring at pictures of your pre-baby perky self. Your boobs will perform miracles and shrink from their once Nell-Carter-huge state to deflated string beans. But, bras are wonderful things! And your husband still seems to try to grab them. So all hope is not lost.
4. Please try to enjoy it—even when it’s really hard—because the good times pass, too.
Everything too shall pass. The hard times are really hard to enjoy, I know. But when you look back, it’s so much nicer to remember the fun times. So be silly. Laugh with your kids. Hide under the covers and make a tent out of sheets. Let them eat french fries. Chase each other down the street on the way to the park. Say yes more often than no. Take lots of pictures. Hold your partner’s hand. Tell your mom you love her. Enjoy a glass of wine with your dad. Life can be pretty fantastic if you let it.
Most importantly, remember that life is always going to be changing on you. Don’t get caught up in trying to control it. Just let it happen. After all, you’re about to meet three of the most wonderful, amazing changes in your life. And they will love you for a long, long time, like really love you. So you’re also about to become real.
Enjoy it. It’s going to be harder and more incredible than anything you could ever imagine.
Originally featured on The Mabelhood.