“Mommy, did God make Daddy funny because he wanted Daddy to be funny?” my daughter asked one day.
“I suppose so.”
Then, fishing for a compliment, I pressed further: “What did God make Mommy?”
I wasn’t always mad! I used to be a riot! And fun at parties! And great at beer pong! And I laughed for no good reason! In fact, back when your daddy and I were young(ish) and in love, he used to tell me he was inspired by how happy I was first thing in the morning.
That’s what I wanted to tell that sassy little 4-year-old. Instead, I just wondered what the heck I was so mad about anyway. Our HOA stopped heating our pool a few months ago; that really pissed me off. And my daughter’s teachers let pre-recorded voices read to her class. What the hell is that about? One of our dogs is eating her way through all of our possessions, and I’ll be plenty mad when she puts us in the poor house. And I’m pretty sure both of my grandfathers didn’t like me very much … maybe I should talk to someone about that … there might be a little anger there. But, at the end of the day, though life’s little annoyances get under my skin — maybe they even bother me more than they do most people — I don’t feel an acute anger about anything in particular. Like many moms, I’m just tired, overextended, distracted and sometimes irritable — perhaps to the disservice of my loved ones. But the excuses don’t really matters if what my child sees is “mad.”
Recently, my daughter was flipping through photos on my phone when she came across some from a Hawaii vacation that my husband and I took before we were married — before HOAs, dogs with separation anxiety, messy houses and willful 4-year-olds made the corners of my mouth droop every so slightly.
“What mommy is that?” she asked.
“What do you mean?”
“That’s a smiley mommy.”
[Pardon me while Mad Mommy cries in her pillow for a few minutes.]
Lately, my daughter has expressed some concerns about growing up, explaining that she wants to be a kid forever. Her tiny brows furrow when she tells me this. Her big blue eyes exude a knowing that defies her age. Admittedly, when she first told me this, I Googled “Peter Pan Syndrome,” wondering if it strikes preschool-aged girls unbeknownst to me. I was relieved to discover it only affects adult males. So I began to wonder if the idea of growing up had been troubling my child because she sees that the adults in her life are stressed out, tired and irritated.
It was time to confront my tiny Peter Pan. I did so when we were driving to school and she brought the subject up once again. I explained to her that she would indeed grow up, like all kids do, but I assured her that she still had many years of kid-dom ahead of her.
“Is this something you’re very worried about right now?” I asked.
She nodded her head.
“Let me tell you something about worry. It is a very silly thing.”
I told her that worry is unnecessary because tomorrow, next year, two years from now don’t matter to us at this very moment. I explained that yesterday isn’t important to us anymore because it already happened, so worrying about it does us no good. This may have been too much for her to comprehend, but I continued.
“So all that really matters at this very moment is what’s happening right now, in this car, with you and me. That’s it.”
Her face lit up as she nodded in agreement.
I drove along feeling proud of my parenting skills, all the while admonishing myself: Oh, you talk a good game, Mad Mommy. But you certainly don’t practice what you preach or your daughter wouldn’t have to wonder where your smiling face went.
These last four years, I suppose I’ve been so laser focused on the details of our day-to-day schedules and serving as the drill sergeant of our household and our family life that I haven’t been truly present for each moment. I shop, I cook, I read, I play, I get everyone where they need to be, I purchase all our necessary (and unnecessary) goods, I laugh, I love. But often, my mind is a million miles away, worrying about next month or reliving some minor annoyance from the day before rather than absorbing the joy of every moment.
So in that car on that day, I willed Smiley Mommy back into our lives and told Mad Mommy to kick rocks. Smiley Mommy’s not all that concerned with being a drill sergeant; she just wants to love and enjoy her family each and every day. And with that shift, maybe someday, my daughter will look at grown ups and say, “That looks fantastic! I can’t wait!”