The Wilder Life: January 2016
The Real Life, Motherhood In High Resolution
By Amanda Jean Harris
In late December, I start thinking of my New Year’s resolutions. For years it was always the same thing — lose weight, get organized. I would be better. I would be different. I was resolved. Sometimes I even bought office supplies or a sports bra. Not like a gym membership or a filing cabinet. But, still, I had goals.
A few years ago I gave up on New Year’s resolutions. Because I never kept them. Like the diet that would start on Monday that never really starts – they stall, lurch and stall again like a clunker car. And so, as I approach this January I am going to resolve several things. I don’t know what yet, but maybe I’ll buy another new sports bra and some filing folders just in case.
In the course of this newfound effort to resolve I looked up the definition of resolution. I found what I thought I might — “a firm decision to do or not to do something” — at the top of the list. At the bottom, however, I found something I knew, but forgot — “the degree of detail visible in a photographic or television image.”
The degree of detail visible. If you’re into photography or have attempted to print a photo taken from an old cell phone you may know a little something about what happens when resolution is poor. You blow up a photo to find it pixilated, distorted, grainy. It’s but a poor reflection of the image you wanted.
And so this year, 2016, I’m resolving to live with greater resolution. When the big picture of my life is blown up, I want the quality to remain. Upon closer examination, I want there to be more clarity, not less.
There are times my life is like a Monet painting, from afar it looks like a clear and beautiful scene. You get close enough to see the yogurt splattered façade and you see it’s all kind of a mess. The messy is fine. It’s the lack of authenticity that concerns me.
This authenticity bit, it’s a tough balancing act in the world of motherhood (or any area of life). Our private thoughts are not so private. I was taught always to be honest and to put my best foot forward. The marriage of the two is not an easy endeavor.
In our family you didn’t air your dirty laundry. My mom didn’t complain about us on social media (or anywhere for that matter). You wore lipstick all time. Always. Unless you were on your deathbed and then no one was seeing you, so it was fine.
When Wilder was born my sisters put makeup on me and did my hair. In the hospital. In the bed. While Wilder was nursing and I was barely coherent. It made me feel better. Nothing could be more grievous, I suspect, than being photographed with no makeup on. Even if those photos are only for my child’s baby book.
Some people think it’s fake. But, in our house it was called having manners. My mother didn’t have much money growing up. Each night, her mother would spit shine their shoes. They sewed most of their clothes. They didn’t know what they didn’t have. Not because my grandmother was a fraud. But, because she and my grandfather were proud. He worked hard. And so did she. She took care of the family immaculately and she took care of the details with such intention. Their life was rich in the ways that mattered.
A couple of weeks into school, I found myself stopping Wilder before he walked out the door, crouching down and scrubbing the once-white edges of his tennis shoe soles. And it all came to me then. This balancing act of authenticity and putting our best foot forward.
In a world full of mirages, I know we are called to be real. People are craving the real. And yet, in all this real there comes a group of voices that “over share.” We don’t need to know your husband can’t buy the right thing at the grocery store. Like ever. Put that in a group text to your best girlfriends. Don’t have one? Get on that. It’s cheap therapy.
We don’t need to see the boil on your neck on Facebook. Send that to your mom … in a private message. Or better yet, just show it to your doctor.
And then there are the children posts. And that is the most difficult balancing act of all. Lest anyone think I am either delusional, have a perfect child or am attempting to present this motherhood gig like a Disney vacation 24/7, let me be honest — being a mom is hard.
It’s harder than I thought. It’s different than I thought. I had done everything as close to being a mother as I could imagine before having a child. It’s likely why I waited until I was over 30 years old to do so.
Being a mother is perhaps the most real thing a person can do — if we’re being real. There’s no hiding from these children. (Unless you have a pantry that has a lock on it.) There’s no hiding who we really are. They see us roll our eyes when we’re on the phone, see our impatience at the traffic and hear more than what we say. They hear what we mean. Because they know us. We can’t hide from them.
Being a mother is hard. Did I already say that? I couldn’t remember. Because I’m tired. That’s real.
The truth of motherhood above all the other things — above how tired you are of reading “The Shy Little Kitten” or getting the weekly allergy shot or wiping snotty noses or heating up bottles — is this: is it worth it.
I resolve to live not with delusion. But, with quality. Not with quantity. But, with more real, authentic beautiful intention.
I resolve to not forget that life is short. Childhood even shorter.
I resolve to be patient when I want to pull out my hair.
I resolve to be honest with myself.
I resolve to be real while protecting this growing little human in my care.
I resolve to be the best version of myself. Because that’s what our children need. They don’t need skinnier, smarter, more organized moms. They need more present, honest, strong, loving moms. And that is something we all can do — with or without a new sports bra.