I’m currently reading Shauna Niequist’s ‘Bread and Wine’ and in it she talks about a New Years party that she planned, fairly idyllically, which turned out to be a bit of a mess and nothing like she imagined, but the real rawness of the experience trumped any previously wished-for perfection.
Today, was that day. A beautiful mess. And I think we need to hear these stories to be encouraged.
It all started yesterday when I dropped my toddler at school and learned about the pajama party that was to be held at school, the.following.day. ‘Dressing gowns and all’ she mentioned. Dressing gown? Clay doesn’t own a dressing gown. Bad parent. So, an urgent call to my mom on the side of the road rectified that – she was all over it. A gown, she would find. I could relax.
The dressing gown was located and purchased; crisis averted. We wrapped it up, and added it to the inappropriately large pile of presents for Clay’s 3rd birthday, the next day. Cupcakes were baked & iced, gummy snake sweets packed, balloons blown and streamers strewn. Supermom here, is all over it. Oh, and did I mention my husband is in Florida?
Birthday Day arrives (bearing in mind I’m leaving out the night before and HAVING TO sleep RIGHT NEXT TO the packed up gummy snake sweets, and frantically washing Clay’s winter PJs at 9:30pm because they had, should we say, a public bathroom stench and of course it was PJ party day that next day) aaaaand… we’re up, at 5:30am. Birthday Day.
The day started (early) with kids fighting over toys, bedding and trying to Skype their dad who was in a time zone 6 hours behind us. About 317 crackly frustrating calls later, dad was able to join in the birthday festivities on audio. Birthday songs were sung and presents were ripped open and barely looked at before the next one was pounced upon. Coffee spilled, carefully selected clothes given as presents ‘not needed’ apparently – announced by the birthday king himself – and the base plate of Lego (upon which one builds duplo) had a picture of a Lego house which was nowhere to be seen (obviously, because it’s just a picture illustrating the use of the base plate, not advertising a house that COMES with a base plate) – but try explain that to a toddler. On his birthday. When birthday hyperactivity is on overload, and no one is of sound mind. It was nothing short of a small World War. No one wanted to be changed (into clothes or now clean, barely dry, winter PJs). No one wanted anything but beautifully decorated cupcakes for breakfast, and, with a few fights and strong short phrases spoken (either threatening or bribing, I can’t remember), off to school we went.
Leaving 20min early, and driving at roughly 15km per hour to school with 16 delicately decorated cupcakes balancing precariously on the front seat of the car, I barely made it on time.
I joined in for the Birthday Ring at his school, armed with my iPhone to capture every precious, perfect, proud-mom moment. I arrived to see a dirty, crown-less Birthday Boy because why would you wear a crown with a huge 3 on it when it’s your 3rd birthday? Our little treasure had chosen a blue rabbit toothbrush from the school gift box as his present. Well done my son, that’s very practical, your father would be proud.
Since my folks had an prior engagement on the birthday evening (and hubby was away), I thought I’d invite my mother-in-law, sister-in-law and Clay’s 2 cousins for a post-school cuppa and play at a coffee shop around the corner. What construed between school and the coffee shop involved almost being attacked by a dog (jumping into our car off the street), driving back to draw money, fill up with petrol, have my bank card decline… AAAAAND now I’m running late. And then, because, well, why not… I happened to drive past the coin operated machine thing outside our local grocery store. Bad move Debbie, bad move. Worse than your son not having a gown mid-winter. I hate those coin operated things. Clay screamed for me to stop the car as if someone was dislocating his limbs, slowly, one at a time. I considered calling off the coffee date altogether and suggest we abandon the beautiful playground location I had chosen, and replace it with the plastic, dirty, paint chipped tractor outside Checkers. That would be nice.
Just as we pulled into the parking lot, I turned around to see… Clay fast asleep. By this time the blog post was writing itself. There were desperate phone calls made, the waking of sleeping children (as if I had missed that parenting class), tears, mess, spills, babychinos not big enough, very, very stinky diapers (I chose not to care); there was chaos, cold coffee, wet socks, and babies eating raw pizza dough intended for children to play with, and then cook. Just what I’d imagined this 3rd birthday to look like.
I’m just like Shauna. I like things neat and tidy (and in a box with a bow; raffia if we’re going rustic, ribbon if we’re going fancy). And today despite my desperate, genuinely pure and noble intentions toward a small human I adore with every cell of my entire self, was not neat, certainly not tidy, and in a box torn apart as quickly as birthday present paper is ripped to reveal its contents (albeit, not clothes apparently – gowns included). Daddy was far away, the red icing (which had to be RED RED and not just RED) tasted, to me, more like food colouring than icing, Clay guzzled his gummy snake with manners cavemen would’ve shunned, the stench of the day was of Clay’s unsavoury nappy (that I could not gather enough energy to change), and the conversation over coffee was disjointed, bitsy and desperate for adult connection.
But that’s just it. That’s us. That’s the real life underneath the Pinterest life. And it’s okay. The mess. The ideal is so seldom a reality, if ever. Be it in marriage, or vocation, in parenthood or trying to celebrate a 3 year old – so much of it is beautifully blue, wonderful, crisp, warm, clear, bright. And then there’s the grey. The hard, tiring and messy. Just as real, and just as okay.
And then out of nowhere (literally) my boy says ‘hey thanks mom for a wonderful day’ and then we headed home, quite weary. And as the lights switched off at 4pm (thanks to load shedding) we snuggled on the ground playing Lego on the new base plate that didn’t come with a house.
And it’s all okay, better than ok. It was beautifully blue, with a bit of grey.