Brett’s cousin got married this past weekend, and while I was waiting for the ceremony to begin, I posted a picture of my family with the caption,
“The impossibility of getting a decent picture of six people. This was our best effort.”
Because I have nice friends, they said kind things about the picture.
People aren’t used to seeing my kids with matching clothes, wearing shoes, and having brushed hair. So even if no one was looking at the camera, my friends would think, “Well for once they don’t look homeless.”
I also have funny friends. And they commented things like, “Complete success. Nobody is flipping us off.” Since my children are under ten years old, you would think this would be an obvious assumption.
You would assume wrong.
(If you don’t know me in real life, I promise I am actually a relatively classy person.)
When the expectation of your family photo is “at least no one is flipping you off”, you have pretty much hit rock bottom in the preschool world.
But if I am being honest, the view from the bottom is pretty great.
Because I have nothing left to lose, I don’t even have to pretend to have it together anymore.
When my child throws a tantrum in public, I can look around at the judgmental eyes and think, “I literally wrote an entire book about how I have no clue what I am doing. Take your judgements elsewhere.”
When my friend tells me her son has a lot cavities from drinking too much juice, I can say, “My kids drink too much juice, too, and don’t have cavities. It’s probably just genetics. Don’t be so hard on yourself.”
When another friend who is pregnant texts me how annoyed she is with her daughter for needing so much attention, I can reply, “When I am pregnant, I hate the world and everyone living in it.” I don’t have to pretend pregnancy is precious. I don’t hate the world anymore, but for nine long months (times four), I definitely did.
My sweet friend invited us over for a pool party last week. Technically it wasn’t a party, but together we have eight kids…so PARTY! She served frozen pizza and watermelon for lunch. I love that she knows I am happy to eat frozen pizza…and I am so grateful she didn’t avoid a playdate on the altar of serving healthy food to my kids. Because she’s well aware that I consider Goldfish a perfectly fine lunch.
My son punched me in the face on that playdate (it wasn’t hard). Healthy food was the least of my concerns. (In fairness, it’s always the least of my concerns.)
When you’ve experienced the gamut of parenting indignities, there is nothing to be but humble. There is no room for judgement. There is no room for pride.
All I have left is compassion.
And compassion is so much more fun than judgement.
The more compassion I have, the more compassion I seem to receive.
I took my kids to my friend’s neighborhood pool earlier this week. My kids were so crazy that I am not sure she will be able to show her face the rest of the summer. She should have asked me to leave…both the pool and our friendship. Instead, she invited us over to her house and MADE US DINNER.
Then texted me later to tell me her kids were now acting like my kids had acted at the pool.
The judgement-free zone. There is nothing better.
When you’re at the top of your parenting game, you have to be so careful. You have to say the right things. Do the right things. Freak out on your kids when they embarrass you.
You can’t let others know you want to sell your kids to pirates some days.
You can’t let others know you sometimes get a little jealous when your husband gets to leave for work.
You can’t be honest about your shortcomings when you spend so much time criticizing other people for ways their kids misbehave differently than yours.
At least that’s what I assume it’s like at the top. The last time I was there was about ten years ago…before I gave birth to my first son. I was such an awesome parent before I had kids. Since then, it’s pretty much been a free fall to the bottom.
And the bottom is pretty great.
Saggy diapers. Tantrums. Mismatched clothes. Bad haircuts. Bad attitudes. Yelling. Goldfish for lunch. Sink full of dishes. Unflushed toilets. Sticky floors. Ignoring your kids. Piles of laundry. Toothpaste stuck to the sink. Messy rooms. Wild kids.
All are welcome. And totally ignored.
This is the judgement-free zone.