It is January 16, 2015, and the kids in our district have had three full school days since December 21, 2014. With sub-freezing temps but no accumulated snow to play in, an artist husband, and me unemployed, that’s a lot of family togetherness. Freezing outside + no school + Mom, Dad, and child at home for 28 days … Om … That’s what it’s finally come down to for me: … Om …
I walk into our daughter’s room and obstacle course my way to the humidifier, which needs daily cleaning in order to combat the heavy mineral build up. My sight cannot avoid the ascending pile of inside-out, and still-on-hangers, tossed about clothes on the extra bed. American Girl Doll accessory piles mock me on the floor, as do several books and stuffed animals that somehow found their way down from the paint-chipped, 46-year old built-ins.
Have you, dear readers, yet discovered that I’m a recovering control freak? My daughter’s bedroom is like a recovering alcoholic dating a man with a stocked cellar filled with award-winning bottles of wine collected from his travels across the globe; the sight of her piles gives me the shakes.
A week into winter break, she and I decided that in order to “win” an expensive item she wanted for her new doll, we would create a chart, with 99 (her number) stars that she’d have to earn the right to circle, one at a time, after achieving one of the listed chores: Homework No Fuss; Put Away Clothes; Clean the Kitchen Floor; Floss No Fuss. The first two days she earned five stars! The next week, one more. And two days ago, another. She’s got 92 to go. During a “snow day” the other day, with Stampylongnose blaring through the iPad (At some point, we parents give up on baking chocolate chip cookies, playing Crazy 8s, pulling out another puzzle, and let the iPad lead the way. I realize these are condemnable bad Mommy moments, but if Mommy’s not going to join the 8’s in “crazy,” sometimes–okay, a lot of times during a 28-day stint at home–a device just has to be okay.) as she lounged on her bed laughing like she was being tickled, and I maneuvered through the maze of her stuff to open the window shades, I lost it.
“Hey! What are you doing?! Can’t you see I can’t even move in here? What did we agree about putting your clothes away? You’ve only earned seven stars! Why did we even make the chart if you aren’t going to try to help around here? Why?”
“I KNOW, Mommy!”
“If you know, why don’t you do something about it? If I can’t get a vacuum in here, you’ll be breathing dust bunnies and swallowing hair, for God’s sake! Not to mention …”
“I KNOW, Mommy! Ugh!” she moaned.
I threatened to take the devices away until she cleaned up her room. I threatened no TV EVER until I could walk through her room without breaking a limb. Then I huffed and puffed my way out and stomped down the stairs muttering like a mad woman unable to find her way home.
Last night, as she blew her nose nursing a fresh cold next to her dad on the sofa watching something Disney Junior, I was upstairs on my yoga mat. Reclined in a supportive pose, butterfly wing legs bound with a strap around my low back, sandbag weights keeping my knees down, arms spread to the side, heart open, Corelli softly playing through the iPod, I expanded my lungs with breath and focused my attention on the palms of my hands and feet, feeling the blissful vibration of my body letting go its grip on this “seen” reality. An internal smile spread through me like badly needed sunshine. I took a deep breath in, let it go, and silently thanked Spirit, the angels, and God for bringing me to this place of awareness: life is fleeting. A moment in time. A gift. And as all gifts are best received with gratitude, I acknowledged the privilege of life and everything became clear. For that moment, nothing that seemed to matter so much to me off the mat, mattered at all.
* * *
This morning, as I walked alongside my skipping daughter on the way to school, the two of us bundled up in winter gear from head to toe, I put my arm around her and she slowed to my pace. I leaned my head down, and snuggled her capped head. “I’m so proud of you,” I said.
The Power Of Saying “I’m Proud Of You”
I realized I didn’t know what for, actually, because her room was still a mess, and she didn’t brush her teeth without fussing before leaving for school, but this is what I heard myself say: “I’m proud of you for being the best you that you can be.”
“Oh! Okay, thanks!” she said.
After what I said out loud repeated through my mind I realized that this was true. That I did not have to choose to be angry at my daughter for not having the same need for order as I did, that, in fact, knowing that she may not be infected with the perfectionism virus as I seem to have been born with allows me to relax, even feel tremendous joy for her: she is not like me. She gets to be who she is in this life. And part of being the best mother I can be is allowing her to express her uniqueness in ways that may not be to my liking.
I have been given many gifts in my life, seen and unseen. One of the most treasured of these gifts is parenting a child that not only does not look like me, but also does not display a similar temperament. I can either choose to keep her from flowing into the unique and happy person she is meant to be, or not. As I return to my yoga mat day after day after day, I set the intention to see all those I love with eyes that do not distort. Welcoming eyes that delight in our differences and celebrate our right to be who we are.
Dina McQueen, a.k.a. The Clarity Midwife lives a grateful life in Northern Virginia, with her artist husband, free-spirited Ethiopian-born daughter, and crazy calico, Leela.
SUBSCRIBE NOW FOR OUR WEEKLY NEWSLETTER