Can We Talk About Something Else For A Sec?
The other day I was scanning my Facebook feed for a sec before going into the bathroom to wipe my kid. The glamour, I know. And all I could see - truly, the only words that popped as they moved up up up my phone's screen - were parenting, kids, mothers, activities, and childhood.
You guys, I can't.
When did I become so flat? So singularly focused?
And can we please, for the love of all that is good, talk about something else for a minute?
I can't even remember what I used to talk about before kids. When someone asked me how I was doing, I probably relayed a tidbit about work or where we were living at the time. I may have mentioned where we were headed for the weekend or started a conversation with, "The other day on NPR I heard...". Now? Every time someone engages me in small talk the first thing I almost always say is some variation of, "Oh, we're mostly good! The kids are great. They're happy, getting big," aaaaahhhhhhhSTOPIT. I'm sure my kid-less friends, if they even bother reading me anymore, are probably thinking, "JESUS THANK YOU," as they read this, momentarily blissed out and hopeful that the next time they see me I might be interesting again.
Because I have to say it: parenting is not the kind of big deal we make it out to be. Important? Yes. A big fucking commitment? You bet. Sometimes stressful? No doubt.
But does it really require us to become so solitary in our focus? To lose interest in prioritizing the things that matter to us? To obsessively handle and manage every single detail of our and our children's lives so that the whole thing doesn't fall apart?
I'm not going to launch into the The Way Things Used To Be argument here, but we all know that we're currently parenting in a completely different paradigm than parents before us. It's a given. Things are different now, yes, but I think things are different largely because we're simply allowing them to be. The nonsense Mommy Wars; the Pinterest Moms vs. The F You, Pinterest! Moms; the Free Range Parenting vs. Helicopter Parenting - all of this exists because it gives us something to cling to. If we're This Kind Of Mom, then we have an identity that's been prescribed to us and then, thankfully, we know where we fit. We've chosen sides in a fake battle, roles in a pretend play, and now everyone is expected to stay in line.
Really, I think we're just a whole bunch of gals who'd really like to be seen as women who happen to have children. You know, like the old days. We want to drive our compact minivans around town with our music up loud on the shitty car speakers. We want to be allowed to have gorgeous, perfect days with our kids. And we want to learn from and improve upon the shit days as best we can. But what we don't want? What I don't want? Is to continue pretending that the fact of my motherhood is the only part of my identity worth discussing.
My intellectual and conversational world has become so narrow because I want to relate to you. Most of us have kids, and because we're mothers and fathers in this modern parenting world - in which the children become the central feature of our lives - it's simply an easy place to start. Too, I often find myself trying to find my humor again through parenting chit chat, poking fun at my kid-messy house, boasting about my son's unforgettable style, or commiserating about never sleeping enough. These are the ways in which I've tried to say, "Hey, me, too. We're the same, pretty much, you and me."
And I never ever want to turn the tools for relating off. Ever. Relating and connecting through common experience in a truthful way - in a way that tells the whole story without glossing it up for primetime - is the single thing that can shift us from a world in which things look perfect into one in which we're all just simply living our very real, common lives alongside each other. If you want to talk to me about your kids PLEASE DO. I want to hear about your real, honest experiences all the time. All the time. All the time. (Got it?) And yet I can't turn a blind eye to the fact that I've been using this one facet of my experience - the fact of my motherhood - as a conversational and relatability crutch. And that I'm ready to again become more steadily multidimensional.
Because I am a woman who likes Vanity Fair and creating paper art and growing kale and eating Velveeta-based queso. I'm a woman who desires a meditation practice. I am a woman who wants to debate the merits of style vs. spirituality vs. swearing vs. public writing forums on a porch while you drink wine and I take a couple of drags off an American Spirit. I want my kids to remember the sounds of raucous laughter through the vent in their bedroom floor on the nights we have friends over for dinner. I want them to see me reading thick, musky-smelling books.
But mostly? Mostly, I want them to hear me being an actively thoughtful, intelligent, purposed woman. And I don't feel those things when I unthinkingly rely on them for conversational fodder, when most of my brain-churning hours are spent figuring out how to parent better in order to be as close to perfect for them as I can be while being realistic about the fact that I can't, in fact, be perfect.
Instead, I want to talk to you about clothes and books and the aesthetics of Anthropologie vs. IKEA. Maybe we can discuss the latest trashy celebrity magazines. Maybe I'll want to talk about learning to garden or how nervous I am to begin meditating. Maybe we can have a swim at the river in the most gorgeous summer evening light, our kids playing happily in the sand, growing weary with the weight of a happy childhood. Or perhaps we can talk about the realities of grown-up-hood that we never saw coming.
I want to add dimension.
I want to be more whole.
Which will, naturally, envelop my children into me in ways I can't yet understand.
Which will make us all more whole.
More knowingly loved.
More round and full and each other's.
I'll wanna talk about that.