It was almost midnight when I realized that tomorrow was silly sock day at the library. Most moms I know would have found two mismatched socks in the laundry room (hey, ours is full of those!) and called it a day. They would have made a mental note or maybe a mobile one on their phone, and rolled back over after having that middle-of-the-night realization.
My own mother would have done that. The queen of not sweating the small stuff and seeing the eternal optimism in even the most dire situation, I never saw her worrying over the unnecessary details of our childhood. She didn’t fret when our ponytails weren’t smooth or our blouses had a stain on them. She didn’t bat an eye when my younger brother broke that expensive living room vase with a wiffle ball nor did cause a ruckus when my aunt stepped on the train of my wedding gown with her mud-covered heel. In other words, my mother cared less about the appearance of her home and her kids and more about the heart in each.
So why, then, was I fumbling with my sewing kit at close to one in the morning, sewing on tiny pom-poms to zig-zag socks? Why was I looking for my bag of markers to draw on funny faces and decorate the pair so they’d stand out when my daughter wore them in a few hours? Who, exactly, was I trying to impress? I knew my daughter would wear absolutely anything I asked her to and didn’t even know what day it was, much less did she care. I was putting all of this on myself, and losing out on valuable sleep as a result.
I finished the project and went to bed, sleeping just a short while until she came bouncing down the stairs asking to see the sunrise. That’s her newest obsession, thanks to a particular country song that mentions the word “sunrise” in the title.
The only thing? We live on the side of the road, where passersby can see right into our home when it’s lit up and the shutters are left open. They see us play hopscotch on summer afternoons, drink tea on the side porch, hang our laundry on the line and ride bikes on the driveway. In this way, we live very much in the public eye and I’m constantly aware of that. So, when my innocent four-year-old asked excitedly if we could go watch the moon set and the sun rise in the sky, my first instinct wasn’t to grab my slippers and rush out the door.
Instead, I took the time to fix my mom bun just a little. I swept on a little bit of blush to disguise the fact that I was a deranged mother who had stayed up past her bedtime sewing decorations on footwear. I looked in the hamper a while for my favorite robe, the one with the rainbow-colored flowers and decorative sash. It wasn’t there so I had to hunt it down. I made sure she had one her coat and socks, as there was a slight chill in the air, and I finally made my way to the door.
To our disappointment, the sun was already high in the sky by that point. Though it had been dark as tar out when she’d first made her sweet request, I meandered around for so long that we missed the most important part of her day. It was a symbolic kick in the gut for me, and opened my eyes to much that I had neglected.
There’s nothing quite like missing the sunrise with the girl of your dreams to put your priorities into place. So today, I’m quietly but earnestly giving up the pursuit of outward perfection. I may still stay up too late thinking about tomorrow, meal plan with a fervor to add a little order to our days and keep a much-too-long daily planner with hourly time slots accounted for, but I’m slowly learning that the absence of chaos doesn’t mean perfection. It means blandness and more than anything, I want my kids to live a rich, colorful and invigorating life that’s anything but.
This isn’t to say I’ll allow everyone to leave the house looking like we just rolled out of bed, but if my son has a little yogurt on his chin from breakfast, we aren’t turning the car around to go home for a face wash. If she wants to wear her glittery, sequin baby doll hair bow to preschool or her fancy high heels to the fast-food restaurant for lunch, I’ll try to look the other way. The truth is, my own mama taught me that lesson long ago when she allowed me to be myself - freckles, stutter, shyness, eccentricities and all. Are they always right about everything? Maybe not, but in this case, the answer is a resounding “yes.”