I’m going with the 80-20 rule. I’m giving myself a little leeway, a little room for reality and humanity.
As my little girl’s preschool graduation looms, I am feeling a little sentimental. Truth be told, my baseline personality could be described as “ooey gooey sap,” and when we add in any sort of emotional event, things can get a little dicey. Think rivulets of mascara running down my face while tremulous sobs shake my body. Simultaneous with the graduation, we are on the verge of moving, and thoughts of leaving the home in which we’ve raised our babies are adding to this slushy, weepy mess. We may have a situation on our hands.
As I look back, I have to be honest and admit the baby years were tough for me. Sleep deprivation, coupled with the endless feed/play/sleep loop and the soggy diapers, left me feeling like I had been sucked into a time-space warp. After my first child was born, I remember leaving the house for the first time and feeling like the world was so big and vivid, I had to squint. As a new mom, I lost myself for a good long while, and my marriage felt like it was teetering on the edge with me. Plus, I was wiping butts constantly, which is never good for one’s self esteem.
Now, my kids are 5 and 7, and I’ve recovered and rediscovered myself and my marriage a bit. I’ve exited the new mommy vortex, and life is pretty good. At their ages of 5 and 7, I find myself wanting to freeze them in time. My kids are turning into real live humans, and I actually like hanging out with them. They’re fun! They say interesting things! They make me laugh! Most importantly, I don’t have to wipe their butts anymore. Like I said, life is good.
As the last days of preschool wind down for my youngest, I find myself wanting to soak up the sweetness of my kids. When my daughter hugs me, she wraps her arms around me so tight and evens sighs audibly with the depth of her emotion. Even when I’m having a grumpy, bad-hair, dark-circles kind of day, she proclaims me the best mom in the world. She promises she will live next door to me when she grows up (I need to get this in writing), and she always wants to be twinsies with me and wear matching dresses. I wonder if I will ever be so loved as I am right now.
Of course, I know it’s impossible to freeze time and keep them at these magical ages. I know hormones will eventually invade their bodies and they will turn on me, as well they should. It’s nature’s way of making them independent and slowly pulling them away to embark on their own journeys. But for now, we have dance parties to Taylor Swift, and they smile at my idiotic singing and awkward dancing as if it’s the best Broadway show they’ve ever seen (you should hear my vibrato). I know, too soon, they will look at me with disgust, shaking their heads at my complete lunacy.
Now, I’m not one of those moms that believe it’s possible to enjoy every moment with your kids. I am not writing this to wag my finger and proclaim we need to enjoy every second of raising our children. There have been many moments in my mommyhood that have been horrific. I have seen parts of myself that should never be unleashed. I have said many an evil thing in my head when they have angered me or pushed me past the point of patience. I have even taken a maniacal pleasure in saying these evil things in my head (It’s fun…try it!)
Nope, instead of enjoying every single moment, I’m going with the 80-20 rule. I’m giving myself a little leeway, a little room for reality and humanity. I will enjoy my kiddos 80% of the time. The other 20%, I will succumb to the basic and bare-bones reality that they are not perfect, and I am not perfect. Sometimes, I just need to step away (or run away), take a breath, and just be Emily. I need to exercise, write, hang out with friends, be alone, go on a date with my husband, or put my toes (or head) in the sand. One thing I’ve learned in my seven years on the mommy job is to be kind to myself and take a break when I can.
In the meantime, I’m soaking it up. I’m getting on the floor and playing with Legos and Barbies. I’m playing orphanage, hair stylist shop, and fashion show until I’m weak in the knees. I’m indulging my son’s eccentric penchant for dressing up in a blazer, fake moustache, and top hat (God love him). I’m listening with as much interest as I can to his incessant talk about Presidents and her perpetual chatter about…absolutely…anything.
I’m in the 80% bracket right now, full on enjoying their sweet voices, the lisp my 7 year old has with his two missing front teeth, the nonsense songs my 5 year sings. I’m sunning myself in their boundless curiosity and big-eyed innocence. And when they turn into whining, crying, bratty monsters with gnashing teeth and googly eyes, I’m taking my 20% and parenting the best I can, walking away when I need to.
So I’m going to go to this preschool graduation and let myself crumble. I’ll let the photo montage set to overly-sentimental music lead me down the path of no return. Audience members may look at me sideways, wondering if they should perform CPR, but I’ll be thinking about the joy that my sweet girl has brought me and the bittersweet reality that she is growing up and away, as she should. May she fly with grace and find love at every turn! She will always be in my heart, 100% of the time.