I'm never a jerk to my friend's kids.
Peed-in pants, spilled water, trekked mud - none of it fazes me.
My tone is placid and level when I answer their questions, and my body is relaxed when they're around me, even when they're asking for things.
I do my best to keep calm with my own kids. I'm often-enough successful. But it usually feels like I'm trying so hard to Keep Calm and Parent On, instead of simply easing myself into each moment with them.
I first noticed my tendency toward calm parenting of others' kids last summer. My daughter had a friend over, the daughter of my very good friend, and this little girl peed in her pants. Instead of giving her my quasi-calm, "Honey, it's okay, it's just pee, but you really need to listen to your body," (which really isn't horrible, but when partnered with a partially tense and sigh-filled air loses its effectiveness as a loving and understanding response), I noticed myself delivering something that sounded like, "Oh, my! It's okay, hun! Let's get you cleaned up, okay? Here are some new clothes. If you need to pee again, just let me know and we'll run to the bathroom, alright? Now go play!"
As she scampered happily away I thought, "Whoa. You were just chill and awesome. Pee? No big deal. Remember that, sister."
Because honestly? How big a deal is any of the shit our kids do? Some of it - the coloring on the walls and the dumping bowl-fuls of water out of the bathtub and hitting the dog on the head - that stuff needs to be handled and can be frustration-inducing, yes. But the eons-old kid stuff, the pee and strewn shoes and uncapped markers (because markers are eons old, obvs) - it just doesn't matter.
I remember once, a year or so ago, when my daughter spilled nutritional yeast all over the counter. Out of the corner of my eye, I watched her look over at me with fear in her eyes. My stomach dropped as realized that her heart was probably racing and that her stomach was probably nervous. And I remembered that feeling, as I spent much of my childhood with the same nervous stomach and constant stream of Oh-No adrenaline.
"Shit," I thought.
Since then, I've worked hard, both at home and in therapy, to let go of the anxiety I attached to parenting. I needed to get okay with the fact that sometimes I'm going to be less than the parent I want to be, so I can be more fully the parent I am; wondering constantly if I'm going to fuck my kids up is, as I've said before, the most surefire way I can think of to fuck 'em up for certain.
And so lately, our house has been a pretty fun one. Tim and I are lovin' on each other. We're watching Jimmy Fallon clips with the kids and laughing constantly as they develop their own senses of humor. And I'm surrendering to the idea that each moment with my kids isn't always going to look like hot pink glitter, but that a little bit of levity on my part can go a long way for all of us.
Trying to treat my kids like they're someone else's is, as a daily practice, somehow making them more mine, more ours - more freely their own - than ever before.
I don't ever want to be the mama who pretends that parenting is a Zen-like walk in the curated park. Because this shit gets real sometimes, and spilling orange juice all over the floor because you're rough-housing at the dinner table really can, at that just wrong moment, feel like a big deal.
But I'm also not willing to be the mama who allows myself to get so swept up into the tedium that is sometimes motherhood that I forget what my kids really are - tiny humans learning how to exist in a wildly overwhelming world.
And offering them a bit of the grace they naturally offer me is something I should strive for.
Lovin' on YOU,