I used to be normal. OK, I won’t push it. “Normal” may be a bit too strong, but no one would argue that I wasn’t at least sane. There was a time not long ago when I was rational, composed, levelheaded, and in control of my emotions. I was a professional. In fact, people actually paid me for these attributes. I was an educator who parents trusted me to assist with the overall education of their children. I even wrote some articles and gave talks on how best to raise and educate children. People solicited my advice; I believed I had the answers. This was my thing, and it was perfect.
After work, I went home to my pristine, never messy, certainly not cluttered, perfectly organized condo. I had a boyfriend and friends—a social life. I sipped margaritas on Friday nights. I worked out, ran races, and never missed my 7 a.m. Saturday gym class. As a result, I was once upon a time in great shape. And because I had a job—one where people paid me—I even went shopping for me! Although I still find this hard to believe, not only did I buy pants in a size 00, but I bought clothing that said “Dry Clean Only.” And as if that concept isn’t foreign enough, sometimes (OK, often) these size 00 dry-clean-only clothing items I bought were full-price—as in not on sale—at chichi stores. Yeah, it really was perfect.
And then I traveled. Oh, how I traveled. And I don’t mean just to Target or the grocery store. No, I really traveled, as in going abroad to exotic destinations where they spoke foreign languages, where I ate decadent, full meals at grown-up restaurants that didn’t offer me the kids’ menu or hand me a box of crayons when I walked in the door. I lounged in castles and relaxed at spas overlooking the seaside. It was pure bliss, pure perfection.
But that was my old life, the old me. I was single, footloose and fancy-free, or as my grandma used to say, I didn’t have a chick or a child to worry about. It was just me. And I was happy living a life of perfection, or so I thought.
Now, I wake up and I am everything I wasn’t. I am nothing I was. It would be a far cry to call me sane these days. As for rational, composed, and levelheaded, well, all that went out the door five years ago at 5:27 p.m., the precise minute my little redhead entered the world, wrapping himself around my heart, leaving me sobbing uncontrollably for I never knew I could love so dearly, so deeply.
My emotions haven’t been in check a day since I began my journey through motherhood. You see, he and his darling sister who followed him just 16 months behind changed everything I ever thought I knew about anything. All that on-the-job training, writing, and lecturing about raising kids no longer means a single thing to me. The fact is, none of that matters anymore because now it’s about my kids, and I’m their mom, and well, that’s a whole different ballgame.
I rented out my condo. We bought a home in the suburbs. And more often than not, it is anything but pristine and well-organized. Fingerprints smudge the fridge so often that I’ve come to think of them as a new means of decorating, of adding a bit of dimension to an otherwise boring space. The laundry piles overwhelm the laundry room because nothing is allowed in our house that says ridiculous things like “Dry Clean Only.” We all know you can’t have an impromptu squirt gun fight, plant seedlings in Styrofoam cups, or drip pancake batter in anything other than 100% wash and wear. And heaven knows that silly silk stuff just doesn’t hold up when put to the sticky-fingers-and-wet-kisses test.
I don’t know the last time I entered a gym. Well, that’s not true. I tried it once—last year. But then my husband was called away for work, and the class conflicted with the redhead’s’ preschool pickup time, and well, so much for that. I haven’t been back since. But that’s OK, because I still work out every day. I still run—to the park, up the stairs, down the stairs, out the door to my darling daughter who has scraped her knee. I think I still own a couple of those slinky 00 pants, but they would look out of place at the playground or covered in finger paint, so no need to worry about whether or not they still fit. And besides, I’m not even sure if they sell 00s on the sale rack at Target, because I rarely get past the dollar bin at the front door before someone has to go to the bathroom right now.
As for travel, well, that really is something foreign, a distant memory, as are fancy meals at fancy restaurants brought to me by handsome waiters with sexy accents. Now when I’m in the mood for an exotic dish, I slurp Italian ice made by the little redhead with his new snow cone maker, and I’ve traded in the margarita glasses for sippy cups. But it’s all good. Now I cuddle in bed each night with the little redhead and his darling sister, and we read about faraway lands that are merely a dream away. We read of castles and seaside escapes, princesses and policemen. I practice my French each night when reading Fancy Nancy. We read and we laugh and we dream.
Once, long ago in a land far, far away, people solicited my advice, and I believed I had the answers. Now I have two little people who think I know everything. But the truth is, I am wildly aware that I really don’t know a thing. Day after day of motherhood, I wing it, hoping and praying I don’t mess up. I yell too loud, cry too hard, laugh too much. But I wouldn’t have it any other way. This is our thing, and it is perfect. Perfectly imperfect.