I have spent the last 55 straight days baking in my kitchen. There's been tie-dying in my front yard, and TikToking in my living room. Dear mom, I'm not a cook. In fact, I am not even the sort of gal that finds the kitchen all that life-giving. Most of my time in the galley growing up was spent cleaning up. By the amount of items we’ve tie-dyed recently, you’d think we loved the Grateful Dead. Actually, I’m more of a hip hop girl.
As for the TikTok? Okay, that was fun. Dancing is most definitely “my jam.” They say that, “Mom sets the tone of the home.” And during this quarantine, the volumes are all over the place. And the story I have told myself quite consistently is that its my job to turn it up. So... Practice gratitude. Choose joy. Make Memories—all the t-shirt clichés. The ones that I love, until I’m simply too tired, too annoyed, too meh or too convicted to make them happen.
So I let them bake, AGAIN. And I made another tie-dye. And we work on our TikToks--for six hours. And the results are in: the cupcakes were blah, I made our Golden Retriever wear the tie-dye shirt I made, and frankly, my dancing is really the only thing on point.
I get it. Mom sets the tone in the home. And sometimes my tune is a little flat. Some days this Quarantine thing has me feeling more like a personal assistant than a mom. Reminders of their upcoming zoom calls, a scheduled video chat with Grandma or a drive-by to see friends. There is the spreadsheet of the 27 different websites and logins and passwords and social platforms for them to be effective in their day. And let’s not forget the, “Mom, I need a snack” (I'm like a short-order cook over here), and “The printer is out of paper again" routine that's happening in every nook and cranny of our day. I wonder how many times a day I hear the question, “What are we going to do tonight?” As if there's really any mystery what Ground-Hog Day, wash-rinse-and-repeat, shelter-in-place production is going to be available to us THIS night, as opposed to the previous fifty-five.
There's a lot going on in this "suddenly-slowed-down" quarantine life, and I cannot possibly get it all right.
Some days, I set the tone alright. And sometimes the tone is loud. The neighbors might even call it a scream. (And we all know they hear it, because their tone gets loud every once in a while too.) But the "loud" the other day came right from my gut--up through my lungs and out of my mouth--at all four of my kids.
I absolutely lost my mind over a cup of rice (as in like 8 ounces). My daughter is participating in an online Culinary Arts class happening at her school. Correction. It's HAPPENING in my kitchen.
I've lowered my standards on how clean things should be in the kitchen these days, so the mess wasn’t my problem. Turns out, her first batch of rice tasted bland. Shocker, right? To which Marcus and I explained, “Well, yeah, it's plain rice.” As I headed back to my bedroom/office/classroom/community living space, our girl demanded she try again. Maybe a second, repeated cup of rice would taste better than the first--as in magically not be bland twice in a row.
Marcus tried to convince her otherwise as clearly my kids rarely eat rice. But she dug in her heels. Can you see where this is going? The banter between the two of them went on for a few minutes, until suddenly it all just got the best of me from the other room. I hauled out my bedroom and erupted back into the kitchen. What came next came from the pit of my gut to the top of my lungs. I yelled, “Just make another batch of rice! Who really cares? We are running out of toilet paper, but we have PLENTY OF RICE!”
I stomped out of a kitchen, now full of wide-eyed Tribe members, stammered straight back to my room and began to bawl my eyes out. As in the ugly cry that cannot be silenced and is heard through the walls, reverberating throughout the home. The tone got loud. Ask the neighbors.
It's all just too much sometimes: all the emotions we aren’t even aware of in the middle of this quarantine. The emotional outburst out of nowhere, the reaction so disproportionate to the situation at hand. It all feels so weird sometimes.
In this season, I’m calling these “mirror moments.” Time to pause and pay attention to what I am seeing in myself. Yesterday after my over-reaction to our dwindling rice situation, I had to take a minute. I went for a walk. Once I got back, I rallied the troops and apologized for scaring them half to death. I shared that I was experiencing all the “feels” and it resulted in an over-eruption of emotion over 8 ounces of carbs.
Vulnerability, honesty, sorry and forgiven. Those are the things that make us good mothers.
Dear Mom, don’t quit. We do set the tone in our home. But it doesn't look like the fantasy Instagram feed you might be trolling. It’s not a Pinterest board of “Shelter-In-Place Party Ideas." Those moments pop up here and there. But those things don't make a mother. Those things, while beautiful, are not what make you great. Do you know what matters? You, and your life, your voice, your giving of self. And this present moment, even the messy one's where you find yourself apologizing over "rice regrets" matters more than you might ever realize.
Dear Mom, don’t quit. I know you are trying to get it all right. So am I, honestly. And I also know some days you want to quit. Please, don’t quit. You are making a difference. Don't let the world qualify your motherhood. We moms are good at recalling our mess ups. But don't forget to appreciate what you've done well.
Like sitting up, rocking a toddler after a bad dream.
Like concocting a decent dinner out of a cupboard nearly bare.
Like divining common core math that's nothing like the math when YOU were in school.
You’ve done so much, so well: folding endless piles of laundry, making lunches, listening to their stories, dancing in the kitchen.
The list is long: laughing and loving, holding their hair when they were sick in the middle of the night, the never ending cycle of wiping noses, butts and countertops. All the things that you've done RIGHT. That’s what they know.
So Dear Mom, please don't quit. Because you are not defined by your worst mistakes. Your bad moment doesn’t make you a bad mom. Your babies love you. You are theirs and they are yours. God designed the belonging that way.
Dear mom, don’t quit. There are all kinds of mothers, but only One God who gave you the gift. Do your best with the treasure you've been given. And even in the Ground-Hog Day, wash-rinse-and-repeat, shelter-in-place production that might be going on at your place, know that your tone, whether loudly or softly, has the ability to make a powerful difference in THIS day. So thank you for showing up. Thanks for giving your all. Thank you for loving and enduring and providing for the needs of these little gifts we've been given. And whatever you do, don't quit.