Friday, November 15, 2013

Identity Crisis

She's a cute little girl. Probably about 4 or 5 years of age, brown hair pulled up into pigtails with pretty pink, sparkly ribbons. Her smile is a winning one, if not a little devious. She sits next to her mother in the restaurant booth, furiously scribbling away on her child's menu and happily chattering about whether she will get grilled cheese or chicken nuggets, which is apparently one of the hardest decisions she has made in her short little life. She's the picture of vibrant, energetic youth.

Her mother, on the other hand, is not. Her brown hair (doubtlessly in need of a good wash), is pulled messily back from her young-ish, world-weary face. The dark circles under her eyes are apparent, even from this far away. The corners of her mouth are tight, perhaps with preoccupation or frustration. She nods as she listens to her daughter attempt to make the most difficult decision of her childhood, mumbling sympathetic "Yes, dear"s and "Mhmm. Oh, of course"s as she worries the inside of her lip with her teeth.

The little girl, all too aware that her mother isn't really listening, has had enough. She pushes the menu away from herself, slides over in the booth, and climbs up into her mom's lap. From this vantage point, she should be able to capture all of her mother's attention. But, as she clumsily (in the way that children sometimes are) mounts her maternal perch, she accidentally yanks her mother's hair.

And that's when it happens.

Several emotions pass over the mother's face in quick succession, and then the tears start flowing. It probably didn't even hurt, but it was the breaking point. The little girl is obviously confused by her mother's tearful outburst, apologizing over and over to her now blubbering mother. As she attempts to quell her sobs, the mother scoops the remorseful child up into her arms and holds her close, no words passing between them as they share a moment of stillness. Maybe the first of the day.

This was the scene I witnessed in a restaurant this afternoon. I sat quite far away from this pair, observing them from my own little pocket of chaos as I shared lunch with a friend and Sydney and Spencer talked, fussed, and wiggled all around me.

I don't know what sparked this incident or what the underlying catalyst was, but I'm all too familiar with it. As are most mothers. So many of us have so many things on our plate besides just motherhood. And sometimes, for multiple reasons or no reason at all, being a parent is just more than we can take at any given time.

I know there are mothers out there who will cringe at my honest assessment of myself and my ability (or inability, depending on the day) to be a mother 24/7. But, I have to say, that doesn't really matter to me. Because the truth is, each of us is so much more than just "Mom". Yes, motherhood shouldn't be taken lightly. Yes, motherhood is an incredible responsibility. Yes, motherhood is a privilege that should be cherished. Yes. motherhood takes up the majority of my life. But, motherhood is not life itself.

Some days are easier than others. Some days I take the fighting and screaming and poop and messes and runny noses in stride. And some days, after the 15th glass of juice has been spilled on my floor, it's about all that I can take. And it is in those moments that I have to step back, take a deep breath, and remind myself of who and what else I am.

I do have an identity. We all do. And, yes, a large part of my identity might be Mom. But, if I don't maintain some parts of my life just for me... If I don't set aside time in my day to be someone besides Mom... Well, I'm bound to be that mom openly weeping in public over an accidental hair tug that, in the grand scheme of things, wasn't that big of a deal. And, believe me. Nobody wants that. I am a HIDEOUS crier.