Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Hey MOO...yeah, you. Thank you!

Yesterday afternoon I went on a mini vacation.  No kids...just me.  I longed for a bit of peace, rejuvenation, and freedom; so I hopped in the car and off I went.

Three minutes later, I arrived at my destination: the grocery store.  The sanctity of a large air-conditioned store stocked with produce and cans and boxes {and wine} was a welcome feeling after a morning that didn't go exactly as I'd hoped and a Monday that was filled with tense frustration and obsessive organization.  Armed with my neatly written itemized list, iced coffee 'pick-me-up', and my cell phone tucked away in my purse (small step toward disconnecting); I focused my efforts on finding the items necessary to prepare meals for my family.  Zeroing in on that sole intention helped to relax away the outside stressors that drove me to be so *zany* in the first place and abandon my family for a solo jaunt through the aisles  {a mom's version of Vegas, I suppose}.

I didn't get far into my travels when I noticed an absolutely *adorable* infant with a head full of voluminous chocolate brown curls.  Being *slightly* partial to a curly top, I paused from my task of picking green beans for that evening's dinner and gave him a smile and a wave--which happens to be the universal baby sign for "ooooh! she wants to see my darling little toothy grin and overwhelmed, excited squirm in my seat!".  His petite mom looked away from the selection of carrots to investigate why her son was suddenly overcome with happiness.  Unaware of the source, she took it as a sign that he was exceptionally happy about life at that particular time and began coddling, cooing, and chattering away in that sweet 'mommy' voice so many of us know so well.  I stood in front of the berries and watched {in a non-stalkerish sort of way} as she doted on his adorableness and smooched on his chubby bare feet.  She moved her cart along to choose some herbs and began happily explaining to her mop-topped munchkin what she'd be doing with each of the different types as she put them into her cart.  Her eyes shone a bit and she laughed as he put his slobber-covered hand directly into her mouth as she leaned over to put the basil next to the thyme {IswearIwasntstalking}.  Tickling his tiny toes, she laughed as he squealed with delight before moving her cart along to the next display.

A few vegetables and some fruit later, and I found myself a little closer to my new-found friend, and this time he was the first to smile and frantically wave his arms in my direction.  Mom turned away from the mushrooms, and this time realized his excitement was directed in my general direction.  As she gave a cautious smile, so I said, "You probably get this a lot, but your son is absolutely darling."  She smiled lovingly in the direction of her son.  "Thank you. He's my whole world.  You can't imagine how much love you're capable of until you're a mom." she replied with such sincerity that I had a moment when I thought, "Wow...that must be awesome to feel that way".  As quickly as the thought popped into my head, it was overtaken by a horrific feeling of guilt.  I realized that the mother was still looking at me {probably wondering why my face was expressing what I can only envision was a random slew of strange looks, so I quickly smiled and said, "You're one amazing mom", before moving on to the tomatoes.

I stood in front of the display of ripe, red spheres and paused for a moment.

What.the.hell.  How did I lose sight {even for a second} of the fact that I have that love, I know what it's like to feel that way?!

In short?  I didn't.  I consider my little 'lapse' as a moment of nostalgia blended with a smidgen of jealousy that she is experiencing the glory of life as a M.O.O. (Mom of One).  And she's relatively new to the position at that.  Lucky girl.

I think my encounter with this 'newish-to-mommahood' mom was one that had a little 'higher power' behind it, {if you know what I'm sayin'}.  One of those 'right place, right time' kind of things that we need every now and then {or, if you're like me,} to remind you, to refresh you, and to refocus you.

Parenting is the toughest job.  Like ever.  It's a non-stop-for-the-rest-of-your-life kinda gig.  The zeros on the paycheck are made from Cheerios, the insurance package includes the early onset of gray hair, an occasional spike in cholesterol from chowing down the last few bites of mac and cheese that your toddler-going-through-a-growth-spurt didn't house himself, and the only 'retiring' you'll be doing is graduating into grandparents where you get to start all over again--only this time it's with someone else's kids {sweet revenge ;) }.

But it's also the most amazing job.  Like ever.  Ever ever ever.  It's the opportunity to help shape the lives of your little offspring by offering everything you possibly can, sacrificing sleep in exchange for the little extra cuddly time or singing "You Are My Sunshine" for the million and sixth time that week.  It's watching with pride as they learn to walk, ride a bike, dance in their recital, graduate high school, get married.  It's loving someone with every ounce of your being, going to the ends of the earth to fulfill their every need.  It's thinking of someone else before yourself, always, no matter what.  It's being changed.  Eternally.  In the best way possible.

I've crossed into the phase of parenting that I vividly remember observing parents of students from my early years of teaching being engrossed in.  At that time, I remember thinking, "that time in my life seems so far off from now".  And yet, in a few quick blinks, here I am, smack dab in the middle of it.  School-aged children with younger ones tagging along from school function to school function, driving to rehearsals, recitals, play dates and birthday parties at the park.  The endless task of picking up toys, breaking up fights, kissing boo-boos, and answering "why?" for nearly every possible situation.  Crazy calendars, meal plans based upon the weekly sales at the local grocery store, play dates, and piles of unfolded laundry {ok, so that last one is an assumption...or maybe a partial confession as I'm plopped in the middle of my bedroom floor, flanked on either side by a mountain of unmatched socks and *slightly* wrinkled t-shirts}.

What I'm finding with parenting as a M.O.M.T.O. {Mom to More Than One) is that it can be easy to clump all three children into a group, commonly referred to as 'the kids' {or "YOU KIDS!" if I happen to showing a not-so-sweet side of my parenting repertoire}.  When they become a group, parts of their identity becomes lost in the shuffle of life, dissolved into the insanity of trying to navigate a store quickly enough that one doesn't stray off into the Barbie/ice cream/Lego/Elmo DVD aisle, interwoven into the mix of a frenzied dinner hour, or forfeited at the cost of keeping another {obviously more agitated} sibling happy.  It's as if they've morphed into a heterogeneous mass of noise and crumbs and dirt and noise and whining and fighting and toys and noise.  In some instances, this works.  {"Everybody go to your own rooms!", or "Let's all go get some ice cream!"}

But what about the times it doesn't work?  There are more of those moments in a day than the group punishment and ice cream times.  Being a MOMTO can mean that pretty often almost all the time you need to become a whole different mom equivalent to the number of kids that you have {and, as I'm quickly finding out, when you have daughters...there are about 327 'kinds of moms' that you need to be well-versed in--because she will test each kind...several times each week. Day. Hour.}

Watching this MOO {ugh...I so wish my self-made acronym didn't spell out the sound a cow makes} at the grocery store reminded me of a time when I was a new MOO myself.  When I giggled at slobber hands being put in my mouth and hair and nose.  When I explained the various uses for basil to a wide-eyed munchkin who really wasn't showing an interest in becoming the next food network star to begin with but stared at me anyway with adoration and curiosity.  When I celebrated each and every little giggle and coo as though he had spoken words that were so wise, they could have earned him the Nobel Peace Prize.  A time when I could focus better.  Zero in on 'a' kid, rather than 'the' kids.

This sweet mom, unbeknownst to her, inspired me to challenge myself.  To become a MOMTO who spends a bit more time acting like a MOO.  A mom who operates less on a 'the kids' level, and more on an individual kid basis.  A mom who not only acknowledges the differences in each of their three unique personalities {or more, depending on the kind of day we're having}, but celebrates them in a way that helps to enhance their confidence, further develop their character, and guides them as they seek to discover who they are.  A mom who doesn't mind a slobbery hand every now and then, and doesn't hesitate for a nanosecond to proclaim to a complete stranger in the produce department that being a mom means discovering a kind of love that you never imagined existing before.

Thanks for the inspiration, sweet MOO.

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