Wednesday, February 22, 2017

As advertised.





"Parenting is hard. Even when—ESPECIALLY WHEN—you’re doing it right."- Glennon Melton

One day Daniel stopped me mid-sentence to tell me, "You know what, mommy?  You have a lot of sad stories."
"What do you mean?
"Well, like anything we come up with you have some sort of depressing or scary story for that."
"Listen, kids, I'm a mom, I'm just trying to teach you my LIFE LESSONS."

Like, for example, how when I was about 4 or 5, I begged my parents to buy me Grape Nuts cereal.  I asked for them so persistently every time we went to Marsh that my mom finally just gave up and bought me a box.  It took me one grainy and dry bite to realize that Grape Nuts contained neither grapes nor nuts.  Box of cereal: $4, Lesson: Priceless.  Don't believe everything you see on TV, my darling children, or you might end up with a whole bowl of super gross cereal.

And any time my kids have ever asked for a toy they see in a commercial, I remind them of the sad, sad story of Baby Skates.

Now little Jenny LOVED Roller Skating, and she loved dolls, and she loved watching the Smurfs on Saturday mornings.  So, when Jenny saw a commercial for a rollerskating doll named Baby Skates during her Smurfs, she was obsessed.  I am going to insert the commercial for your review, and you can see why little preschool me HAD TO HAVE THIS DOLL.




I longed for Baby Skates.  Absolutely pined for her.  I mean, just LOOK at her??!!!!  There were many things as a kid that I longed for that my parents never gave me, either because they couldn't or because they knew it wouldn't be a good idea, and for that I am deeply grateful.  But I am also grateful that I did get a Baby Skates, because she was a big old life lesson in one little box.

When I finally received the coveted doll, I couldn't believe that she was mine. I remember sitting on the beige linoleum in our dining nook and removing her carefully from the cardboard and plastic.  She looked a little more flimsy than she did on the commercial, but I was undeterred.  This baby was going to amaze everyone!! I saw it on TV!  I set her up on the floor, fully prepared for the awesome performance I had in my mind.  Baby Skates was a little wobbly, but I finally got her upright and switched her on.  She was vertical for a full 3 seconds before face-planting, her little plastic legs still kicking, tiny yellow wheels of her roller skates flailing in the air.  

Hmmmm.

This was not as advertised. 

I tried for a while until I realized that there was absolutely no way Baby Skates was going to fly on my linoleum the way she flew on the sidewalk on TV.   Wait- the sidewalk!  Maybe that would work!  So I tried the sidewalk- but that was even worse!  Any little bump and Baby Skates was done.  I went to my mom in tears and she sympathetically tried to help me, but we soon learned that any flying that Baby Skates was going to do would have to be done with my own two hands.  Mattel had sold me a box of LIES. I looked at my mom, crushed.

"You know, Jen," Mom said.  "Not everything you see on T.V. is true.   Can you see now that you can't believe everything you see in a commercial?"
And I did see.  I may have only been about 5 years old, but I sure felt ten years wiser.

Baby Skates was a good lesson for my consumer life, but it is also a good lesson for life in general.  How many times do we feel like life is "not as advertised?"  I think my first true lesson in the not-as-advertised nature of adulting came when we brought our firstborn home from the hospital.  I had longed for a child, I PINED for a child, I felt destined to be a mother.  My mind, shaped by movies and sitcoms and Johnson's Baby Powder commercials, had me convinced that I should be in a perpetual state of joyful maternal bliss, gazing at him in wonder just like the resin Madonna in my nativity scene.  

Instead I discovered that as a new mother I was spent- mentally, physically, emotionally- from birthing my first child.  I was anxious about keeping my son alive, as this seemed like a huge responsibility and I was unsure who qualified me for this.  I was still in pain, even little things like walking up the stairs made me want to cry.  Phil didn't sleep at all, so I was in a new realm of "tired" I had never experienced. And don't even get me started on breastfeeding!  And then layer on top of that the guilt/shame cycle of not feeling like I was ENJOYING EVERY MOMENT with my precious child. . .

My maternal state was not-as-advertised.

It was a Grape Nuts moment, and nothing was as delicious I thought it was going to be. WHERE ARE THE GRAPES?  WHERE ARE THE NUTS HERE?  My first inclination when a feeling like this happens is that I must be doing something wrong. Maybe if I just buy the right thing. . .maybe if I was a different person. . .maybe if I just made myself better. . .it wouldn't be hard.  I'm doing something wrong.  I'm wrong.  Everyone else has it together but me.

Then, same thing happened to me when I was 27 that happened to me when I was 5. . .my mom came and picked me back up.  "No one really tells you how hard being a mom is, Jen." she said.  "It's hard for everyone, though.  Being a mom is just hard. It's OK."

Right when she said it, freedom.  I understood, because those aren't just words for my mom, she's backed it up her whole life with action.  My mom has shown me in her living that not everything is easy, especially the really worthwhile things.  And just because it is hard doesn't mean you are doing it wrong.  Maybe, it's just hard.  But it's worth it.   Keep on keepin' on.

This lesson keeps coming up again and again.  When the kids are fighting.  When the bills aren't paid.  When the pile of dishes and mountain of laundry just won't quit.  When the cat gets sick, someone has a fever, the car is in the shop and the furnace breaks.  When we get on social media and we hardly see a single person tackling their mountain of dishes or breaking up a squabble over a toy.  In fact, everyone seems to be smiling and heading on vacation and showing off their hot bods and new outfits and shiny manicures and well-decorated homes.  Is this how my life should be?  What am I doing wrong? Why is my life not-as-advertised?

Our culture sends one message, but there is a deeper truth.  Not every day is picture-perfect, and if I expect them to be I'll be setting myself up miss the imperfect mess of joy right within my grasp.  Nothing is perfect this side of heaven.  But in the midst of our earthly struggles, I'm learning there is room for so much joy. 

I can't claim to be a biblical scholar, but I can say I've never seen a place in the scripture where Jesus promises His people that everything will be easy.  Or where He tells us to buy something to solve our problems. . .or if we just lose weight, or get a better job, or a new car, or have flatter abs it will all be good.  More like he said deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow me.  Blessed are the peacemakers, go be one. Love your neighbor, wash each other's feet, don't worry about tomorrow, ask God for what you need.  I've got your yoke on my shoulders, you go rest.  He didn't promise us it would always be sunshine and roses, but he sure did promise He would be there, right in the midst of the mess with us, to pick us back up and put us on our feet again.  Commercials and Facebook might deceive us, but I believe there's a loving heart at the center of the universe whose promises are 100% for reals.

So, when I start feeling life is not-as-advertised, I just try to remember that there's a lesson in everything if I look for it, and maybe even some good health at the bottom of that bowl of Grape Nuts.  It may not all be picture perfect, but by God, there will be JOY.  And if you ever start to feel like maybe things are hard because you're doing them wrong, kick that lie to the curb.  You are awesome, just the way you are.  Let's show 'em, Baby Skates.







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