"It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye."
Antoine de Saint-Exupery
After a few years of being a homemaker, I came to a frustrating realization. . .I was ruining ALL OF MY CLOTHES! Basically every top in my wardrobe had some sort of stain on it from cooking, washing dishes, putting lotion on squirmy kids, or from my primary role as "human Kleenex." Also, I was pregnant and my maternity clothes had a frustrating lack of genuine pockets. Why do they think storing a baby in your belly automatically negates your need to store other things. . .like, say, in YOUR POCKET? One day, after finding a Hot Wheel in my bra I realized it was time to do something real to solve this problem. So, off to Target I went (the solution to every problem seems to start at Target, right?) and grabbed the first apron I saw- white canvas with bright red apples, a nice full skirt and TWO pockets! Problem solved! I started to wear my apron every day, and stopped finding puzzle pieces in my undergarments and giant grease stains on by belly. It was lovely. After about a year, the apron started to look a little beat up and used. . .as it should! I wore it most of the day, every day, doing my "mom stuff". So, as husbands do, Paul insisted that he buy me an even NICER apron from a fancy website, with cute ruffles and even a diamondy-looking thing set in a bow on the front. It swooned over it that Mother's Day. I put it on and felt like the cutest mom of a two year old, three year old and almost one year old on earth. So long, old worn apron! New Jen is here and she is FANCY!
The next day was a pretty epic (and by epic, I mean standard) day of parenting three little kids. At 5:30 p.m. it culminated in a completely trashed house, a ruined batch of muffins that I forgot to add the sugar to and a three year old tantrum that ended in a mommy COMPLETELY covered in vomit (right in the middle of a visit from Paul's parents.) Oh, I was so upset, embarrassed, and discouraged, not to mention my new fancy apron was drenched in puke. And when it came out of the dryer it was completely ruined. . .wrinkly, floppy, sad and now a light gray as opposed to a vibrant black with polka dots.
I shoved the "new" apron in a drawer. If you can't handle a little vomit, you can't hang with me, cute apron. Back to the old apple apron I went. That was almost four years ago, and despite multiple offers from Paul to get me a "new apron", I now have a greater appreciation for the old model.
It may not be pretty anymore, but my kids know me in this one. One pocket may be falling off, but the other holds Lego minifigs like a champ. It makes a phenomenal Kleenex for thigh-high kids. I am pretty sure ingrained in my kids' childhood memories will be my apron, up close, because it is just the right height to be the recipient of a face-plant in every hug. I have grown to appreciate my ratty old apron for what it does, not for what it looks like these days.
Today as I hung the trusty little apple apron on its familiar hook, I came to a powerful realization. I need to extend the same grace I give to my apron to myself. I have been struggling a little lately with the changes in my body that I see in the mirror. My belly is, if I am being completely honest, COVERED with about a hundred stretch marks and wrinkles and floppy skin from the four pregnancies. In addition to that, I still have about 8 extra layers besides the ones my hairstylist adds from the waves of postpartum hair loss. Not to mention the wrinkles around my eyes and on my hands. When my husband looks at me, he says, "You are so beautiful! I have the most beautiful wife in the whole world!" But, sometimes, when I look at me, I just see someone who looks used up. Kind of like my apron.
But, just like that apron, this body right here is how my kids know me. They don't see any of my perceived flaws, they see me with their hearts. And when they do, they just see "Mommy". . .my squinty smile, my really loud laugh, my big old hugs. My belly may be permanently squishy, but it makes an awesome lap for cuddling. My eyes may be crinkly, but that's because I get to smile and laugh ALL of the time, and smiling's my favorite. ;) My hair might be eight lengths, but at least I don't have to wash it every day anymore (hello, dry shampoo!?) and my hands have aged about 20 years in the past 7, but that means they have been working hard to take care of a little family that I love. My body has worked hard for me. What a gift. I need to take care of it, because it is a temple of the Holy Spirit and that's my responsibility, but I need to stop criticizing the natural changes I see as I go about living my earthly life in it. I wouldn't trade the changes in my heart in the last seven years for anything, so if the changes in my body come with that I need to humbly accept them as the privilege they are. I'm working on that humility and peace within myself. Everything doesn't have to be perfect to be lovely. I'm getting there. Articles like this help. And my desire to walk the talk- if I tell my kids I love them as they are, I need to show them that I treat myself the same way.
And when my kids look back on their childhood, I want them to remember ME: a happy mommy, who kept their treasures in the pockets of her apron, read them stories in her squishy lap and loved them with her whole heart, JUST THE WAY they are.