Kudos to those of you who’ve made it this far and haven’t just passed a snap judgement about me based on the title. Hear me out, you’ll get it.
My kids are loud, ya’ll. Like, loud. They have big feels and leave big messes and have big fights and very big opinions about whether or not an apple is a snack. They don’t go right to sleep whenever bedtime rolls around, they don’t always eat their whole dinner, and sometimes they act out in public. They have to be told to do their chores, for cryin’ out loud. Some have special needs and some have weird hobbies. Some have a hard time making friends and some don’t ever stop talking. Some have medical needs. Some have to go to frequent appointments. One of them eats raw onions and one of them won’t eat any onions. All of them are fragile in one way or another. These kids, these loud, difficult, unexpected kids are ruining my life.
My perfectly-planned, Pinterest-inspired, magazine-worthy life. The comfortable life I’d planned, the easy life I’d imagined. Every day doesn’t end in a life lesson and a hug while emotional music plays unobtrusively in the background, the way I’d intended. My boys dress in bright, comfortable clothes without ANY regard for my love of sweater vests and the girl doesn’t have a British accent, despite how adorable I find them.
My life, ya’ll, it’s derailed. The youngest was born with those life-threatening food allergies that forced us all to change the way we eat. All this cooking I do now, I had to learn it, and all the go-to, easy, cheap meals we enjoyed are gone. All these groceries we buy now, we have to get the expensive stuff and read the ingredients and be mindful about what we put into our bodies. Insert eye roll, amiright?
This isn’t how it’s supposed to go.
The middle one has these special needs, needs I never anticipated or even knew existed. We’ve had to educate and advocate in ways I previously viewed as embarrassing. We’ve had to make changes and apologies and completely shift our views on education, emotions, discipline, nutrition, medication… basically everything we thought we had an opinion and a grasp on with regards to raising children. We’ve had to humble ourselves and admit how little we knew while navigating through a world that doesn’t want to be told they didn’t know, either.
This isn’t how it’s supposed to be.
I’m supposed to be pursuing my master’s degree right now, or volunteering, or meeting my friends for lunch, or working leisurely at a makeup store for the discount. My kids are all supposed to be in school, with nary a worry or phone call. I sat out for 10 years, waiting for my youngest to start kindergarten so I could wave goodbye to staying home and hello to the new chapter. Instead one of those kids had some unplanned special needs and needed more of me than I’d ever planned on giving. There’s nothing about this on my dream board. There were no chapters about this in those parenting books. I don’t see any Instagram accounts featuring parents at home with sagging shoulders and tear-streaked faces. This isn’t the mom I set out to be.
Heck, if we really start pointing fingers, all the blame lies on my big one, the oldest, the unplanned one, the surprise baby I wasn’t supposed to be able to have and wasn’t prepared for when I did. I was supposed to be touring Europe with my husband, not recovering from an emergency C-section and caring for a colicky preemie. He’s a great kid and I really don’t have any complaints, but he’s not supposed to struggle at all, ever, right? Hard days at school aren’t a part of my plan. Sickness, teachers, bullies… I didn’t anticipate any of these things going the way they sometimes do, and I don’t like it.
My kids were supposed to be “normal”. They weren’t supposed to have special needs, different needs, or need so much from me.
Days were supposed to be filled with memories and laughter and craft projects and cookie decorating. All of the days, not just the special occasion ones.
I was supposed to sign my kids out of school for surprise laser tag tournaments, not specialist appointments.
This isn’t the life I had planned. This isn’t the mom I was supposed to be.
I was supposed to be peaceful, never lose my temper. I was supposed to be GOOD at housekeeping. Laundry always done and put away, dishes the same. I was supposed to be the room mom, the Pinterest mom, the team mom, the enviable mom. The mom who always has snacks and sanitizer at the ready and definitely doesn’t leave the house in pajamas. Motherhood was supposed to be easy, instinctive. I was supposed to be well-rested and smokin’ hot and patient and full of joy all the time.
But that’s the mom I thought I’d be for the kids I thought I’d have.
The kids I do have need a mom who is fierce, who sacrifices, who researches and learns and prays and tries. They need a mom who can make the appointments, read all the labels, who is in touch with her emotions and can identify them honestly. They need a mom who will hold them when they cry and push them when they pause. They don’t need a mom who is holding tightly to an ordeal or harboring resentment towards reality, they need me, the mom who is as surprisingly flawed and different as they are.
They don’t care if I’m room mom or sanitizer mom or laundry-always-folded mom. (They do care about the snacks, though.)
They don’t care if they never get peanut butter sandwiches.
They don’t care how young I was when I got started or how old I feel when they blow out their candles.
They don’t need a mom who gets 10 hours of sleep, they need a mom who will be there when they wake up in the night, or when they see the sun rise because they couldn’t sleep at all.
They don’t care about my level of education, they care about my level of involvement.
They’re (obviously) not bothered that our house isn’t always magazine-ready or that I drive the minivan I swore I’d never own.
They don’t think I’ve fallen short because I meet their needs instead of my expectations.
They don’t know what my plans were or how different life looks from how I thought it would. They’re not comparing me to ideals or media fantasies. They don’t think I’m a watered-down version of an image dreamed up in the thick of naivete… they just know I’m their mom. And whatever I had imagined, whatever standards I’d set in place long ago and fail to meet almost daily, whatever my days look like, being their mom is infinitely better than being the mom I thought I’d be.
The mom I thought I’d be didn’t account for their personalities, their inside jokes, their talents and quirks. It didn’t anticipate their unique and life-altering needs, but that mom also didn’t know how much those needs would improve her. The mom I thought I’d be didn’t know how a challenge could become a blessing. The mom I was going to be wasn’t at home working, so she wasn’t able to discover a passion and a community that was waiting for her. The kids I thought I’d have aren’t the ones I’ve got, so I didn’t know about the little freckles on their backs or ticklish spots on their feet. The kids I thought I’d have didn’t present any struggles, but also weren’t interested in the most unique things that expand our horizons. The kids in my dreams were compliant and well-mannered, and while I could do without some of the atrocities committed at our dinner table, I’d happily take my hilarious, boisterous, unique, and imperfect kids over the fantasy ones.
My life is ruined, ya’ll. Wrecked, destroyed, completely unrecognizable from what I thought it would be. And I love it.
I prefer it.
I cherish it.
These babies who changed me, who ruined who I thought I’d be and made me someone even better, I like them way better. These flawed, loud, restless, challenging kids are 100 times more preferable to whatever I thought I’d be getting. They’re worth changing my plans for. They’re worth a ruined life. They’re worth adjusting myself for. What’s the alternative – resenting my kids for not meeting my expectations? Making us all miserable as I try to force us into molds? Considering us all failures for being real people? No, my reality is wonders better than my expectation. It’s harder, sure. It’s louder. It has a lot more pee than I ever could have imagined. But it comes with my kids, my life, my family who rides in my minivan. This is what I have, and it is nothing like what I thought it’d be, thankfully.
This is the mom I am. I’m not perfect. I still mourn from time to time. I grieve what I thought I’d have or miss what I thought I’d do. I’m not smokin’ hot and I won’t be planning any class parties. But that’s not what my kids need of me. While I’m happy to let my kids ruin my life, I’m determined not to ruin theirs. I can’t parent pretend kids or hold them to my imagined standard. I have to let them ruin my life, tear down the expectations I had, so we can all build ourselves up together, so we can all grow in who we are.
The mom I thought I’d be was an expert. She knew it all, planned it all, cleaned it all, folded it all. She had everything under control and everything went perfectly as she’d willed it. But the plans I made about the mom I thought I’d be, were made when I wasn’t even a mom. I was expecting expert-level mastery at the rank of apprentice. I didn’t become a mother until they came along. Like building a house over the phone, I had lots of plans and plenty of imagination, but until I was in the dirt and holding a hammer, I had no idea what I was doing.
It’s easy to plan, it’s hard to implement, and it’s painful to amend. Our lives are ruined by reality, and it hurts to accept. We feel like failures compared to who we thought we’d be. But if we’ll give ourselves credit for who we actually are we’ll see that a ruined life is the most beautiful opportunity for our own unique one. If we can let go of our expectations and embrace our growth instead, our dreams will be ruined but our lives will be precious.
My kids are ruining my life, and helping me to knit together an even better one.