Parenting. It’s a constant juxtaposition of daydreams we envisioned pre-baby days and the shocking reality of the experience. We have our days where our kids don’t pee through or throw up all over their cute outfits. When they cooperate and quietly occupy themselves as we scramble to get the house vacuumed and dishes put away. When car rides are filled with the sounds of “la-la’s” and raspberries from the back seat instead of moaning and cries. We all have those days, but, if we’re honest, there are a lot more infrequent than we thought they would be. Instead, we find ourselves surprised that it’s again time to change another diaper, balancing a babe on our hip as we attempt to move dishes from the counter to the dishwasher and performing a Broadway worthy show from the front seat to distract from the discomfort of their five point harnesses.
Parenting is messy. There’s no way around it. No matter how organized we are, no matter how much willpower we may possess, the tiny little beings inspire chaos everywhere they go and there are two ways of coping. The first is to not cope at all but rather constantly chase that vision of perfection we have set for our households. But a vision isn’t sustaining or realistic. It’s a dream state that we’ve created to bring a touch of glamour and fantasy to the parenting experience. The second is a bit harder and easier all in one dose: admitting to ourselves that children are messy and that fact is beautiful and one to embrace. If we can do that, we will see that there is no such thing as perfect when it comes to childrearing. There is trying, there is struggle, there is victory and there is defeat. These are the pieces that comes together to form our days. Embracing them is what will bring us the joy that our fantasy promise.
Here’s the truth: Internet parenting isn’t realistic. What we see in the few moments documented on social media are tiny pieces of a whole. We don’t see the pile of mess behind the camera that the photographer didn’t want us to see. We don’t hear the children whining for the second straight hour after skipping their nap. The ugly, the truth is masked. Don’t get me wrong, after experiencing my own chaos day in and day out, I find solace in a gorgeous Instagram feed, but there is a fine line between inspiration and expectation. It’s a tightrope we must be careful to balance. Otherwise we may find ourselves plummeting towards the ground worrying not that we’re falling but that other people may see it and point a judgemental finger.
David and I have always loved our tree hunting trips. They mark the beginning of the Christmas season and the memories made in the rows of evergreens warm our hearts each season. We knew this year would be different. Gray, God love him, isn’t the most charming of babes at times and chooses to remind us most often when we are in the middle of large tasks that can’t simply be bailed upon. But we know that if we don’t try things and at least hope for happy outcomes, we’ll simply never leave the house. So we bundled him up and hopped in the car for a small in town adventure.
In the last six months, we’ve learned the importance of surrounding ourselves with people who know the truth of messy parenting and don’t run from it, but rather embrace it. So we made plans to meet up with one of our favorite families for this year’s tree hunt. It wasn’t a perfect one, but it was still beautiful. The weather cooperated, the field wasn’t too crowded with other scavengers and we managed to get through the day without a major calamity from any of the three kids. It was a good day. Good, but not perfect.
What you don’t see in these photos:
- The first two outfits Gray had on before this one- at home covered in spit up.
- The pretty outfit I had picked for myself and quickly given up on in exchange for time to gather supplies for the diaper bag.
- The whining, moaning and groaning from the littles as we checked and rechecked every inch of the field for the perfect tree.
- The small eye rolls from the husbands as we pointed our every small flaw in tree after tree…after tree.
- The moment Gray decided he was fed up with the stroller and needed to be carried the rest of the way.
- The back of the tree that we brought home that may or may not be slightly lopsided and bald.
- The moment when Gray gave up on sitting up and smacked his head on the side of the car.
- The 5 times I asked David to hurry up tying down the tree so that we could get Gray home for a nap before he exploded into grumpy screams.
- The fact that I hadn’t showered in two days in an attempt to spend more time with my boys over the weekend.
You don’t see these things in these photos. You don’t see them, but they were there. And while I could chose to look at these photos and romanticize on the day, I choose to see the challenges it brought as well. I choose to see them because when I do, I am also faced with the beauty that counterbalanced them. I can see that my beauty routine pre-baby was so unnecessary. Being a mom has taught me how to embrace my natural beauty and love my body that has now experienced the miracle of growing life inside it. I can see that when things get hard, we have good friends to offer their extra hands in support. I can see that David and I’s communication has fundamentally improved from what it was before Gray’s arrival. I can see that while he still moans, our babe has moved past his all day screaming stage and has found some comfort and solace from our presence. I can see how much our friends have grown and taken on the roles of “mom” and “dad” like champions. I can see the huge improvements in their babes who always bring laughter to David and I and give us a small vision of all the fun we will have down the road.
I can see all of these things but not without first seeing the mess. These messy moments are the only things that point me to the beauty. I can only appreciate and value the successes of the day if I first give credit to the challenges that accompanied them. They go hand in hand and demand equal attention each and every day. I’m not sure if we could truly appreciate any form of beauty if we didn’t first examine the ugly, and when it comes to parenting, fully embrace it. There’s laughter that can be found in the shoulder shrugging moments. There’s joy that can be squeezed from the face palm incidents.
Remember that the next time you feel a bit of shame over your messy living room as you scroll through your Instagram feed. The mess exists whether documented or not. It exists and should be nurtured. It’s not something to run from, or to hide from others. It’s something that should be shared so that when we ourselves forget about the beauty amongst it, we can instead be reminded by those who have been invited to see the mess.
Until next time!