My kid wanted to buy me a magnetic bumper sticker that said, “No money, No time, No life: My kid plays (insert your sport of choice).” He thought it was funny and also, absolutely true. My other kid wanted to buy me a magnet of a guinea pig with a lacrosse stick in its mouth, which I politely refused. My husband ended up buying one that said something about “giving blood” by playing lacrosse, to which I said, amen. I don’t have to play a sport to have it drain the lifeblood out of me. Magnets aside, most days, I love it.
The kids and I chatted about it yesterday, and I told them how blessed I am to have the time and flexibility to attend all of their games, stock up on their equipment, wash their dirty uniforms, and cheer them on. I worry that my occasional complaints about maintaining this kind of schedule implies that I resent their activities. Occasionally, I do resent it, but for the most part, this is what parenting is about for me–showing up and cheering from the sidelines. I’m really, really good at it.
I felt pretty great about myself for about 3.5 seconds until my son turned to me and said, “The bumper sticker is true. You don’t really have a life of your own. You live my life.” On hearing this, my mouth flew open, but nothing came out. When my speech was finally restored, I tried to bluster my way past this ridiculous statement, and quell the rising anger/tears/homicidal thoughts. This comes on the heels of a rather unfortunate incident in which my husband told my daughter to clean up a mess she left in the kitchen. In a voice full of sincerity, she said, “Why can’t mom do it? She’s not doing anything.”
Jesus, take the wheel because this mama is careening towards a head-on collision.
I haven’t stopped thinking about my kids’ words since. One of them wrote an apology letter, and from this I quote, “Even though her children may not deserve it, a mom accommodates to her child’s every need. We don’t realize what it would be like without a mom to be there for us every day of the agonizingly stressful week.” Apparently, this kid inherited some of my flair for the dramatic, along with a rather twisted perspective on how I view my week. These words, along with a few other recent life happenings, set off an internal maelström.
I saw a post called “Why being a mom is enough” making the rounds recently. I couldn’t bring myself to read it, although I’m sure it’s filled with lovely and sincere thoughts. I may be guessing at the content based on the title, but in my kid-induced crazy state, I don’t need to be reminded of something I’m not sure I believe any more. I don’t think being a mom is enough. I don’t think being a wife is enough either. I spend most of myself–my time, my energy, my heart–standing on the sidelines, while my family expends all of themselves in doing something worth watching. I’ve watched my kids excel at academics, at sports, at friendships. I’ve watched my husband excel at his career, graduate school, and every last one of his hobbies (of which there are many). I have cheered and cheered and cheered until my throat is sore and my hands are numb.
Sometimes, I just want someone to stand on the sidelines and cheer me on too.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had my moments. They create hand-made signs and they stand at the finish line and they ask to hold my marathon medals. They ask about my writing and they say a prayer for me and they wish me well when they leave for All The Important Things in the morning. But these are only moments, and I find myself longing for an occasional role reversal, for a Cheering on Mom Season. I want my children to reject the idea that a woman’s life is only important as it relates to her husband or children. Instead of raising up children who believe a mom’s role is to live vicariously through her family, or “survive the agonizingly stressful week”, I want them to see the fullness of a woman–her abilities, her ministry, her inner beauty. I want them to say, “Wow, look at Mom’s crazy, beautiful life! How lucky are we? We are still the biggest and brightest part of it!”
I realize I might be stepping on some toes here, but I’m sharing what’s true for me in this season. I’d never presume this is true for you too. Are you ready for a Mom’s Cheering Season or do you find yourself quite content to cheer your people on from the sidelines? There are no right or wrong answers:)