Archive for January 2nd, 2009

Oh Sweet Spontaneous

Carla: Love and hugs to anyone who know the reference for the title of this post–no Googling allowed! Anyway, I was watching the Rose Parade yesterday as I am wont to do on New Years Day. And every year, my husband and I tell our kids about the year we slept on the streets of Pasadena to watch the parade go by.

We were attending Fuller Seminary at the time and we lived just a few blocks off the parade route. We were stuck in the city for the holidays and decided to make the best of it. We made a thermos of coffee for Jimmy, packed lots of Diet Coke for me, made tuna sandwiches, grabbed sleeping bags and sweatshirts, and headed for Colorado Boulevard at midnight. We “slept” on the street, our heads on the curb, with thousands of other people. By the time the parade rolled by, we had made lots of new friends, drank lots of Diet Coke and coffee, and eaten tuna for breakfast.

We tell this story every year, and every year I am kind of sad that I will probably never sleep on the street–well not by choice at least–again.

For me, the loss of spontenaity has been one of the biggest–and most difficult adjustments I’ve had to make as a parent. We have a lot of free-spirited, artsy, young friends. They pick up and go to Thailand or to Africa or to New York. They grab friends for last-minute road trips to concerts and festivals. They meet up with friends and talk late into the night. So often, I fight back little twinges of bitterness that their lives are so free, so open to possibility, while mine is as predictable as a frozen January in Minnesota.

I know this is something a lot of moms wrestle with. We try to be spontaneous-ish as a family, but seriously, it’s not the same when “spontaneous” involves three hours of planning, packing food for 5, trying to think through every possible crisis that could arise in the next three hours, and making sure nothing conflicts with the increasingly elaborate social life of a 12-year-old. As one of my single friends once said as she was watching us prep to leave the house, “Wow, all I do is grab my purse.”

Caryn: First off, I don’t get the title reference. Seems like it should be sung wearing character shoes, but I dunno.  Second off, I hate your free-spirited, artsy, off-to-Thailand friends—and that one who only needs to grab her purse, too. I spit on their lives.

But, just so they don’t feel bad, it’s the sort of hate born out of pure jealousy—like a bully. I will be able to like them someday—probably in 15 or so years when my kids are grownish and they are saddled with little ones of their own and find themselves making pad thai out of a box (as I did on Wednesday), tears rolling down their cheeks as they tenderly slice a block of tofu, longing for the days when they skirted off to Thailand on the wind. I will like your friends then. I will even tell them, “Oh, to have those days back when the kids are small. I miss that! Okay. Gotta go. I’m going to be late for my flight!!! But, remember, one night in Bangkok makes a hard man humble” (Sorry: I had to insert my own little lyric).

So, yeah, I’m with you. The tied-down-ness is one of the most difficult of parenting. Which is weird, actually, for me, because I really am a planner-kind-of-person. I never would’ve just flown off anywhere on a moment’s notice before kids, but I would’ve on maybe a many-moments notice. But it’s not just with stuff like travel and events that I feel this. It’s with ideas and work stuff too.

I mean, as you and I have talked about, Carla, I think we need to get this Revolution on the Road! Those Mom Hall Meetings we’ve talked about—where a bunch of us moms from all over the country get together and chat and raise all sorts of new questions and fresh answers—needs to happens. But, alas, the children.

Speaking of whom, while I’ve been plunking away, hating on your friends for their freedom, two of my three lovie kids have been making presents for me on the floor of my office. My six-year-old just handed me a cut of a blue-Sharpie-colored house with a real working door. When you open the door, there’s some blue Sharpie people, a dog, a bunny, and the fish. That’d be my family.

[Pause while I hug and kiss my kid.]

Okay, so I miss my freedom too. I miss being able to grab my purse and run. I miss not having it take hours of planning—as you say—to go anywhere, even when it’s without the kids. But I do so love that house full of blue Sharpie people (the bunny? not so much).

Carla: First, stop being funnier than me. I hate that. Second, it’s so true that just when I am most caught up in those feelings of stuckness, those who have me stuck remind me of why I am so willing to give up all of that other stuff. They are absolutely worth it.

At the same time, the Revolution is about giving moms permission to have their own dreams and not just live through their children. So the challenge is for us to create dreams that work in the lives we have, not the lives we had. As a friend told me recently, there’d be something wrong with me if I had the same dreams now I had when I was 25. And I don’t. My dreams now are very much about my family, but the are also about other people’s families, about how I can use what I’m learning and discovering in the midst of motherhood to bring goodness and light to others.

Our dreams shape the lives we live, but our lives need to shape our dreams, too. I think it’s okay for us to grieve for our freedom now and then–it’s good and deserves to be missed. But we also need to keep looking ahead, figuring out what dreams are behind the blue Sharpie doors.