It’s 4:45pm again and there’s no dinner cooking on the stove. My boys are in the backyard squabbling because the older one got a new bike yesterday and the little one loves it more than his own bike. Because of course. I’m on the couch, listening to them while I nurse my baby. And my oldest? I don’t know where she is. Drawing, probably.
“Why isn’t dinner on the stove, Lynne?” she asks. Man, she is annoying. “Why didn’t you fold that laundry there?” “Did you work out today?” “What’s your problem?” It continues on and on. Some days, there is a near constant stream of discouraging dialogue streaming in my brain. I imagine an archetypal mom; someone who is perfect. She has perfect hair, perfect clothes, a clean house, children who can play for hours on end with no screens in front of them, and of course, she works out and cooks healthy meals three times a day.
I don’t know where she came from or why she exists in my brain, but I’ve come to hate her. When I think about it rationally, I know that she isn’t real and that I’m doing the best that I can. She just pops up at the most inopportune times. She mocks me, usually when I am especially sleep-deprived or frustrated.
But here’s the thing: I know how to battle her. I know how to make her disappear. It’s a little game I play with her. Cat and mouse, maybe. When things are starting to spiral out of control and she threatens with her spatula in one hand, clean baby on her hip and apron perfectly pressed (Apron? Seriously?), I lean into my children. I forget my house, forget the crumbs, forget the to-do, forget the laundry, and plan pasta and parmesan cheese for dinner. Then, I lean in close to my kids and engage with what they’re doing. If they’re looking at a book on the couch, I grab a book and start reading too. If they’re playing outside, I go out there and ask them to show me their plan. If they are playing wolves, but we need to get morning chores done, I tell them to “go make your dens (beds), change your furs (get dressed) and brush your fangs.” I think you get the idea. When I intentionally lean into my children, that perfect-mom monster disappears. Completely. She can’t stand to be around such a creative, off-the-cuff parenting style. So she leaves and I win.
There are days for pushing, for getting lots done, and for go-go-going. Then there are the lean-in days.
The lean-in days have become my favorite.