To The Middle Season Mamma in May

middle season mama

To The Middle Season Mamma in May,

Happy Mother’s Day!

Do you want to laugh out loud at that sentiment?  Do you kind of want to puke?  What a joke that Mother’s Day is in May!  MAY!  The month that breaks mothers and then sort of backhandedly celebrates us.  At least me and my fellow “Middle Season Mammas.”

To you precious “New Season Mammas” this isn’t for you.  Turn your sweet, sleep deprived eyes away.  I don’t want to spoil anything for you.  I refuse to be the bitter, middle-aged person at your wedding rolling their eyes and saying “just wait…”  Go nurse the baby, sit on the floor with your toddler, cut up some hot dogs, worry about the baby weight, and tell yourself this is the hard part.  We’ll let you.  It’s our Mother’s Day gift to you.

If you have more than 2 children in more than 2 stages… I’m talking to you.  I see you with your toddler having a melt down at the late Jr. High baseball game.  I see you missing the elementary Easter party on “accident” because it’s kid #4 and you literally CAN. NOT. WITH. ANOTHER. EGG HUNT.  I see you trying to figure out after-school schedules like some sort of military commander.  I see you wistfully wave to your friends in the car-pool line knowing it will be a solid month before you catch up.

Happy Mother’s Day.

My 4th baby was born the year my 1st baby started Kindergarten.  Next year I will have 1 in high school, 1 in middle school, and 2 in elementary.  I can’t do the math after that because it is May and my brain is tired.  I can’t do one more fraction, decimal, long division, place value, math fact, or algebra problem.  I also can’t with The Iliad, The Odyssey, any creative writing prompts, egg drops, robotics reports, blank maps, president projects, mock debates, family trees, or “all about me’s”  Nope.  Can’t.

It’s May.

We only thought we were tired when they were babies, right?  We only thought it was exhausting to get up with them in the middle of the night just to hold and rock them.  Ha!

Now, some of them are up at 5:30am for cross-country/basketball/football/2-a-days, and some are still out at 11pm for rehearsals/games/dates/movies. I literally can not stay up later than my kids do.  But when I turn out the light and get under the covers, at least partially at peace with whatever the plan is for the rest of the night, they don’t even notice.  They will walk into my room and talk to me like I am sitting at the breakfast table in the middle of the day.  “Mom, can I borrow your charger?”  “Mom, where’s my baseball stuff?” “Mom, I need money for tomorrow.”  “Mom, did you email Mr. ______ ?”  “Mom, what are we doing next weekend?”

I AM SLEEPING BECAUSE I AM TIRED BECAUSE YOU ARE ALL ALWAYS AWAKE AND IT IS MAAAAAYYY!

May started early this year for us Middle Season Mammas- on April 26th to be exact- when TSwift and The Avengers plotted to keep us up all night!  Half of us were waiting in line to see a 3 hour movie and half of us were watching the countdown on Instagram where the snake turned into a butterfly and we all know who really saves the world (“MEEEEE”)!

(If you don’t understand, it’s ok.  Go enjoy some Mac and Cheese, Paw Patrol, and simplicity.  I told you to turn away.)

Sorry.  I’m sorry.  It’s May and I’m tired.  You New Season Mammas are killing it with your gorgeous Instagram feeds and your advice on date night and self- care.  You’re adorable.

And the whole world is for you.  There are sweet old ladies waiting to hold your babies at church, and college friends flying in for your showers.  Your parents can still handle your life when you need to get away, and it doesn’t take a 20 page spread-sheet to make it through the weekend.  You have things like MOPS, and “Mommy and Me” classes, and Library Story Time, and Play Dates… and your kids take a nap.

Sometimes I want to have another baby just so someone will see me.

Maybe it’s the loneliness of the Middle Season that is the hardest of all.

See, us Middle Season Mammas live in our car.  We eat a lot of fast food and haven’t sat around a table since Christmas.  We live and die by email and GroupMe and literally have 0 control of our own schedules because a teacher/coach/director can change our family’s day/night/weekend in less than 200 characters.  We can make a plan, but chances are good that something will come up and it will change.  We may not need a babysitter anymore to grab drinks with friends or a date with the hubs but we are so tired we’d rather stay home.

See, we’ve aged out of all the cute “Mom” clubs.  We’re on our own.  No one is gushing over our teenagers.  We’re all so busy with our own lives all we can do is send a fist-bump emoji to our friends in solidarity.  We haven’t had a conversation with our husbands in 6 months that doesn’t sound like a board meeting or attack plan for the week.

The only thing we feed on more than Chick-fil-a and coffee is Mom-guilt and worry.  Because unlike our New Season kids, our Middle Season kids remember the fails.  The stakes are high and the expectations are huge.  I used to worry about SIDS.  Now I worry about suicide rates, SAT’s scores,  school shootings, and sexting.

Are we doing enough?  Are we doing too much?  Are they too sheltered?  Too exposed?  Is she mean?  Is he smart?  Will they make it?  Will they ever like each other?  Will they ever like me again?  What are they listening to?  What are they watching?  What are they talking about?

There is a lot less grace passed out to us Middle Season Moms.  I miss the whole, “all you have to do is keep them alive till Daddy gets home” season.  Now it is “all you have to do is make sure they excel in every class, activity, and relationship, monitor every online activity, read every text, be intentional about their mental, spiritual, and physical health, and be available for every call, conversation, and late-night ask” season.

Maybe there is less grace because we are actually invisible.  The moment our kids step out into the world we start fading away; merely the master of the calendar and driver of the car.  But no one really sees us.  We’re like the electricity that keeps it all running.  Invisible.  No one notices until it goes out.

It’s May and I’m about to go out.

So imagine our confusion when one random Sunday amid the deluge of activities and invisibility, there is a holiday dedicated to us.  The teenagers grant us their first smile in months.  The kids slow down for a second and direct a kind word our way.  Long past are the sloppy breakfasts in bed and glittery excitement of crafts celebrating Mommy.  We stumble through the expectations of this day… all of us.  Where do I want to go?  Want to eat?  Want to do? Wait, you can see me?  I am disoriented with the deference.  Mother’s Day in May… how ironic.

What I want for Mother’s Day in the Middle Season is to be sent on a silent retreat because life is incredibly loud and fast.  But I’m lonely so I want my friends to come with me.  And I want there to be mimosas.  (And that cute little bistro set at Target for the courtyard, K Babe?).

Next month I will feel bad for what I said when it was May.  Baseball and ballet will wrap up.  The showcases will stop.  The parties and programs will be over.  The finals will finally end.  Next month I will sit by the pool with my friends.  I will read a bedtime story to my littlest.  I will consume real food and good books.  I will emerge a human and I will Embrace Summer.  I will really celebrate Mother’s Day.  I will remember that the Middle Season is good too.

Hold on Sister.  Remember that they love you though they side-eye and sigh at everything you say.  Remember that you are more than the keeper of the planner and the driver of the car.  Remember that there are thousands of us sitting in the stands, running to the thing, revising the paper at midnight, COUNTING DOWN.

Remember that it is the electricity that warms a family and lights a home.

A fist-bump of solidarity to you all.  See you on the flip side.

 

 

Mothering Screens Rather than Monitoring them

mothering screens

I was recently over at iMOM with a guest post on my heart for my children when it comes to “Screens.” We are the first generation of mothers who must brave this new territory and it can certainly be overwhelming but I believe we can honor their childhoods when we choose to “mother” rather than merely “monitor” this aspect of their lives. I am by no means an expert, but if you’d like to read my “6 Solutions to Screen Problems” and then tell me a few of yours, I’d love to enter this discussion with you!

Dirty Eggs- A Practice in Vulnerability

Dirty Eggs

Did you know that in other countries they don’t keep their eggs refrigerated?  They are just stored at room temperature, on the counter, in a basket, and they don’t go bad.  When my chickens first started laying, I was nervous that we wouldn’t gather the eggs quickly enough and they would rot before we got them to the nice, safe, sterile fridge.  

Then I learned about the “bloom.”

The egg bloom is an invisible coating from the chicken’s body that seals the eggshell’s pores.  It serves as a shield and a strengthening agent, keeping bacteria out and moisture in.  With the bloom in place, the egg is protected and strong- just as it is.  An egg will stay fresher in its natural state, than it will washed and preserved in the fridge.

Interesting.

Now, if you don’t have chickens of your own, you may not know that those beautifully colored, organic eggs get a little dirty in the process of being laid.  Chickens aren’t very discriminating birds and they will lay their eggs in the same place that they lay (AHEM) other things.  When the kids bring the egg basket in each day there are feathers, dirt, and (AHEM) other stuff stuck to them.  I may dust them off a bit, but I do not wash them.

See, in washing off the crap and feathers and dirt, I’d also wash off the natural, magical bloom.  Clean eggs rot a lot faster.  Sometimes when friends are over and see my basket of dirty eggs I feel a little embarrassed.  Like I have to explain that it’s not laziness or an oversight.  That there is something important and strong under the filth.

Obviously, I wash the eggs before I crack them open to use them, and I wash them before I pack them to sell.  There are times that clean eggs are called for.  But in everyday life, dirty eggs on the counter is a practice in vulnerability.  It’s a standoff with our sterile, hygienic, unblemished culture.

God has me on a couple of really vulnerable journeys right now.  Really.  Vulnerable.  And let me promise you that I have been really tempted to clean up my crap before I came to the table.  Really.  Tempted.  I want to dust off the dirt and the feathers and show up pretty and unblemished too.  I want to put my best, most put-together foot forward, and then rush to safe sterile places of life, friendship, marriage, and faith.

But then…

We’ve all felt it, haven’t we?  The wilting and rotting when we show up all clean and shiny and not at all our selves?  Not at all honest with our junk, nodding polite heads and staying in the hygienic middle ground rather than the gritty corners of real life?  Not at all vulnerable – expiring by the second?  Feeling the hope seeping out, and the unmet expectations creep in?

But I’m trying to learn the lessons these dirty eggs and this invisible bloom are teaching me.  Do I trust that God sent me to these places, on these hard journeys with what I need to survive?  Do I trust that there is something strong and important underneath my ugly too?  Something needed and magical?  Something invisibly keeping my nature in tact, the presence of God in, and the rot of the world out?

Clean eggs are acceptable, I get it.  No one would choose to buy dirty eggs at the store.  We are repulsed by the idea of it.  Clean people are acceptable too… cleaned up marriages and parenting and homes and answers.  There are plenty of places my crap isn’t welcome and I wouldn’t be safe with my feathers showing.  Noted.  But there has to be a space I can come vulnerable, real, natural, surviving and thriving underneath the dirt.

Dirty eggs stay fresh longer.  

Shiny stories rot pretty quickly.  There is no magic in the gleam.  We trade a cleaned up outside for a dying inside.  Or we are brave and risk our dirt and feathers showing, knowing that vulnerability really is a bloom.  It blooms safety and healing and conversations and space for well, space.  

Don’t clean up too quickly.  Safe, sterile, and unblemished are overrated.  Let’s all us dirty eggs find a basket on a countertop and outlast the fake smiles and carefully crafted answers together.  Let’s trust the we are strong and protected not in spite of the bloom of vulnerability, but because of it.