The neighbor’s apple tree is ripening and the green apples are slowly turning to a rich red color. As I gaze out towards the tree, I can actually see a phantom version of myself… a year ago, I stood below this very tree surrounded by my children.
I was barely keeping my head above water that day, trying to mother well… Love well… Contribute to me career with dignity and skill, engage and honor my husband, serve those around me and find joy and peace in the day-to-day challenges and responsibilities. I was happy, yes, but tired. If you had asked me on that day, I would have told you I felt like a failure, and I was so, so tired.
In a burst of desperation I threw layers of mismatched clothing onto my surprised children and marched them outside to create a memory and prove my worth as a mother. I wore Evan’s oversized yellow sweatshirt, a pair of pajama pants and a bright pink headscarf holding back brand new dread locks. I’m pretty sure I wasn’t even wearing a bra…
With the heavy weight of Graham on my hip, I watched as my pinked-cheeked girls bravely skipped across to our neighbors stoop and politely asked if we could pick some apples. I held back and told myself it was because I wanted my daughters to feel independent and strong, but if I were honest, I didn’t have the energy for small talk and I didn’t want anyone to notice that I hadn’t showered in a few days.
I waved a thanks to the neighbors when they agreed, and quickly directed my troop toward the apple tree. I looked down at Graham and noticed he had copious amounts of clear snot running from his chilled nose. I remember thinking he was probably working on another ear infection and repositioned his blue and grey knit cap to better cover his ears.
Once we got to the tree I ungracefully reached up with one hand to grab a low hanging branch while counterbalancing Graham’s weight with the other side of my body. My daughters’ pudgy hands reached up and swiped at the fruit, struggling to actually grab anything, let alone pull an apple off the tree…
Frustrated, I set my wobbly little boy on the damp ground and watched as he proceeded to topple head first into the cold grass. Charlotte quickly picked him up and cuddled him between her legs which prompted Eleanor to plop down beside them and refuse any more attempts at apple picking. The three of the them chatted and played while I begrudgingly pulled branches and plucked fruit, feeling deflated and tired.
Once I manged to get everyone back inside, I wiped noses and wrangled strong wills, I fed and sang, laughed and hollered, and finally sent them all to naps so I could quickly bake some apple cookies in peace, having fully given up on a perfect parenting moment. A perfect… anything.
When I look out the window today and see this mother and her children, you may think I would want to shake her a bit and say, “Snap out of it! Don’t take this precious, precious day for granted! Stop counting down the minutes until nap time, until your baby can sit up on his own, until he’s grown… Stop expecting perfection and missing the joy all around you! Stop feeling sorry for yourself — it’s not that bad!!”
I could say those things, yes, but what I really want to say is, “Oh Mama, I know. It’s so, so difficult. We can’t make this world work right, and the ‘perfect’ day is really just a charade anyway. We are all hurting. Simply or deeply, it’s all a version of the same pain… We’re broken. So enjoy nap time today and when your baby wakes up before his sisters, give him his very first cookie and take a moment to enjoy it.”