I have a favorite bakery. That bakery isn’t my favorite just because of the awesome pastries and donuts and petit fours, it’s also my favorite because of the group of women that work there. I often see them on my way to work when I stop in to get a bagel, and we chit chat about everything from TV shows to kid shenanigans to dipping a spoon directly into the peanut butter jar and calling that dinner.
A few days ago I made a formal order for treats for my office, and as one of the women filled out the form I realized I needed to tell her that my name changed. She looked up at me with such a sad face, and without thinking about the words coming out of my mouth I said to her, “Don’t feel bad for me! I’m really OK.”
And until the words came out of my mouth, I didn’t know they were true. I paused a minute, looked at my reflection in the display case, looked back at her making eye contact and repeated myself with absolute certainty.
Don’t feel bad for me. I’m actually a lot better than OK.
And then she asked the questions that people I love ask: What about your girls? How are the girls? I’ve learned in the last year that people who truly care, people who truly value marriage, people who truly value family, people who truly care about children – people with true empathy – always ask about my girls first.
The girls just finished their year of firsts, but the truth is they have even more firsts ahead and their lives are complicated. Their days of not worrying about anything outside of school and friends and youtube sensations ended some time ago. Now they have to think about the other people to be introduced into their lives, how their school events will change again, how holidays will change again, how to tell two parents their big news of the day when only one of those parents is at home to hear that news in the moment of excitement. Their lives can be great – and they WILL be great because I am determined to make it so – but they will never be as carefree as they once were and as they could have been. Change and knowledge of adult things was heaped upon them, and they’ve grown up so much faster than they needed to.
Some time ago, I ran across this quote by Sophia Loren: “When you are a mother you are never really alone in your thoughts. A mother always has to think twice, once for herself and once for her child.”
Once you’re a parent, everything you say and do has to be with two sets of people in mind – yourself and your children. Your greatest responsibility and your greatest privilege is to parent. From the moment your first child is born, every decision has to be looked at from multiple perspectives. Every action and reaction has to be made with two sets of people in mind. Every mistake has to be viewed from multiple perspectives. The remainder of your life must be lived with the understanding that little eyes are watching and those children are impacted by everything you do and say in some way.
As parents, never really being alone in our thoughts also means that how we’re doing is almost always tied to how our children are doing. If they hurt, we hurt. If they are filled with glee, we are filled with glee. If they are mad at a boy, we are mad at that boy. If they cry because of a mean girl, we want to yell at that mean girl.
At the bakery I talked to my pastry tribe about how I was doing, not about how my girls are doing. And my response was about me and not about them – and I’m not sure how I feel about that. Because while I think that as parents we are certainly individual people, I also think that parenthood, with the goal of raising good humans, must be approached with selflessness. Can we really be happy if our children have unpleasantness in their lives? Should we be happy?
I don’t have the answer. I think sometimes we have to guide our children to happiness, and to do that don’t we have to find happiness first? And yet in some ways I also think that sometimes children are naturally happier than parents and they can help guide us to happiness – even though that’s not the way it should be.
The bottom line is that there is still unpleasantness in my life and in their lives, but at the same time there are so many wonderful things about my life. My girls live with me, we’ve made an awesome girl house, I hit the jackpot in the family department, my friends and neighbors and church family are awesome, my work family is the absolute best, I love my job, and I could go on and on.
So I’ll repeat myself: Don’t feel bad for me. I’m actually a lot better than OK.
And you know what’s also true? Regardless of the changes, my girls have more forces of good in their lives than bad. My girls see more examples of selflessness in their lives than they do of selfishness. And my girls see God in more people than they don’t.
So the truth may be that they are actually a lot better than OK, too. And maybe that makes me even more OK. *Maybe* we can be confused and have peace and be happy and yet overthink things and have chaos and love and be loved all at the same time.