On Friday, the boys and I had ourselves a low-key day. We stayed in our pajamas for a little while longer than usual, and we went to the gym soon there after. We met up with the HBH (Hot Black Husband) for lunch, as the gym and his office and the grocery store are all within a few blocks of each other. And if you saw this post of family pictures last week, you know that Cancan’s taken to dressing himself. And asserting himself. And having Very Strong Feelings, as he should be having as a growing, thriving little boy.
But that doesn’t mean that it’s any easier for either one of us to navigate his changing self.
So you’d think I would have kept in mind the fact that I am a thirty-something year old Very Wise Woman, and he is a three-nager. But when we got to the grocery store, I wanted to be the one in charge. (I know). I wanted to be the one calling the shots. (I know).
I put on my Big Girl Mama Panties and I laid down the law:
“Cancan, you will leave your airplane suitcase in the car. And you will leave the reusable bag packed with additional goodies in the car. And you will leave your cardboard 4th of July “flag,” as you call it, in the car. Because we are meeting Dada for lunch, in public. Okay?”
I did not give him choices. I did not give him options. I was firm and steady in my Very Wise Opinion of all that was needed for a successful venture inside our local Whole Foods market.
But he was having none of that. Instead, he looked at me and uttered his favorite new four-syllable word: NO.
I stomped my feet and I considered flailing my body on the concrete, tantrum-style.
And when I finally unstrapped him from the carseat and attempted to dethrone him (without the suitcase, the reusable bag and the Independence Day “flag”), a minor moment of defiance turned into something so much larger.
Alligator tears began streaming down his face. Hiccups caught in his throat. Pleas of mercy came from his mouth while I stood steadfast and stubborn in my own attempts to Be Right and Look Right and Stay Right for the remainder of the day.
Because y’all, here’s the truth: it wasn’t his mess. It was my mess.
Too often my insides get messy. I haven’t had the time to sit with my words, and I forget that there’s power when I unleash my fingers to do the hard work. I’ve slept badly, so the last thing I want to do is get up early and sit with a cup of coffee and a book that brings me closer to Old Suitor Heaven, as Emily Dickinson would say. I haven’t worked out and I haven’t taken care of my body as I should. I haven’t taken the time to sit with the man I hold hands with for life, and that only creates more tension, more dissonance, more disconnect.
Because if my insides aren’t right – if my insides are all awry, messy and sticky and unkempt on a deep soul level, then it shows on the outside.
It comes out with my boys and it comes out with my husband.
It comes out with the postmaster and it comes out with the stranger in the car next to me.
It comes out in my interactions, online and in the real world, and nine times out of ten, call it karma, call it Jesus, call it Payback circa Rascal Flats, that person I’ve been most ugly and most messy to is going to end up on my front porch and in my world again. [See also Long’s Drug Store employee, Allegiant Air ticket representative turned flight attendant, and Target over-the-phone representative – these may make good stories, but they don’t make for a kind Cara in the moment.]
So when it came to Friday’s lunch, I took a deep breath and I counted to three. I asked for a do-over with my son, and I said I’m sorry.
And then together, with Little Brother in tow as well, we three proudly walked into the grocery store, like this:
So, what about you? Hint: even if you think I was far too lenient with my son, don’t tell me that, for you may have missed the point of my gushy heart words. Otherwise, when and how and where have you been messy? Linking up with the #wholemama team over at Esther Emery’s site – join us!