Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Isabelle's Bowling Birthday

Last week all four of us—Peter, Lydia, Pru, and I—headed down I-35 to San Antono for my neice's 10th birthday party at a Main Event arcade. It's a pretty straight shot for us (Hwy 45 > I-35 > Loop 1604) and an easy drive…unless you spend the whole thing arguing about the minutiae of language. Which we did.

What a waste of quality time alone with a husband.

We made up in the parking lot outside the party, but it was a painful drive and it took a little while for the hurt to fade. Luckily pizza and smiling kids helps that process along.

My niece is now a "tween"! I love how much she loves her little cousin and wanted to include her. I don't know how long that will last. 
This was Lydia's first "big kid" party to go to and it was obvious she was out of place. The other kids were doing their best impressions of teenagers and Lydia wanted to dress as a princess. We compromised and I did my best to give Lydia an "Elsa" braid.
After pizza, the big kids played laser tag and we had to distract Lydia so she wouldn't notice she was left out, but soon enough they were back and ready for bowling. 

Now, is is one of those great bowling alleys where the gutter bumpers go up and down on command. This is great for preschoolers like Lydia who don't have a hope of reaching a pin, but I was really surprised that all the girls and boys used them. I'm not sure how I feel about that. I'm firmly of the It's-Just-A-Game philosophy, but I also want my girls to feel free to take risks and fail. I know how embarrassing it is to get a gutter ball on that stage in front of all your friends, but I want to have the emotional maturity to laugh at myself and know I still have value beyond my ability to aim a ball. It was like watching a group of ten-year-olds play tee ball instead so they couldn't strike out.

Nevertheless, the gutter bumpers did allow Lydia to play along with everyone else. As did this great contraption: 
This adorable little ramp meant that Lydia didn't have to do the granny roll and her ball could actually pick up some speed down the lane. I can't tell you how many times my sister's and my balls just stopped halfway to the pins. 

I let Daddy take over the bowling while I entertained Pru. It melted my heart to watch them together. She was so serious in her efforts and Peter was trying to explain a game that we take for granted through years of muscle memory. 
With all of her assistance, it should have been no surprise that she got the highest score. But this is Lydia, so she was unimpressed with that…or rather, she was less impressed by that than she was by her snazzy new shoes and headband.
Somehow within the windowless arcade, they time flew by, marked only by diaper changes and Dr. Pepper refills and before I realized how late it was, GrandDad told us it was time for them to get back to the hotel so that GrandMom could catch the Spurs game. But I had to drag him and Peter off for one last adventure…just for us grow ups.
This Main Event has a ropes course!

We strapped ourselves into harnesses and were given about a half hour of free roaming above the arcade floor.

It was a lot of fun to watch Dad and Peter do something fun for themselves instead of just playing with the kids.

It was terrifying for someone as uncoordinated as me, who was recently in physical therapy working on balance problems. It was also the most fun I've had since Peter took me to indoor skydiving for my birthday last year.  
The day started poorly but ended well. I realized I'm not "stuck" with Peter, I'm blessed to have him. And two stories up, I remembered that I didn't "have" to drive home but was going to get to drive home for two hours with a man who, despite a hurt back, had just bowled and climbed for hours just to be with his family. 
What a lucky lady I am.


Sunday, February 9, 2014

Never Mom Alone

Photo by Mateusz Stachowski

If you're a stay-at-home mom, the best piece of advice I can give you is this: Never mom alone. Find someone—a few if you can—who's in the same boat and join together like a Voltron to become more than the sum of your parts. 

Even if all your friends are working moms (or not even moms at all), you can find some weirdo out there who's gotten themselves in the same boat you're in. Maybe she's a junior copy editor who looked at daycare prices and realized that saving the world through journalism would just have to wait a few years. Maybe she's a teen bride who started popping out babies way too early and had to put her Bible degree on hold. Maybe she's a spoiled housewife who hasn't worked a day since she met her shockingly successful husband.

It doesn't matter if you can't stand these moms. You'll love them a whole lot more when they've got poop behind their ears—which you will only get to see if you are with them when it happens!

What does it mean to mom together? Play dates are a good place to start, but they can be a source of stress if you're trying to impress other moms with your creativity or homemaking. What I'm suggesting goes beyond scheduling a day where the moms all pool their time and energy to entertain the kids. I'm suggesting joining up with other moms to actually do life together.

Ask someone over to watch her kids at your house while you wash the dishes and fold the clothes. Some of the best days I've had were when my friends and I have literally made ourselves at home in each other's houses. Messy or clean. Our power as moms is amplified when we join forces. Our failures are mitigated when we have someone there to understand us and let us vent before we blow up. Or set a time when you can both go grocery shopping together. Yes, it will take planning ahead and it will take longer than it normally would and you will want to judge the quality of food or amount your friend spends. But you'll learn from each other and learn about each other. 

Doing life together this way takes courage, vulnerability, and humility—traits I have little of. You will need to be courageous enough to risk making invitations to your friends that will eventually (and possibly often) be declined. You will need to be vulnerable enough to invite your friends over to your house when it isn't up to your usual hosting standards. You'll need to be humble enough to let another woman correct your child while you take care of another need across the room. 

Comparing yourself to other moms is a losing battle. Don't compare who you are to another woman's status updates or photo albums or blog posts—you're comparing your worst to their best (or so I've been told; I'll be honest, I don't have a great handle on this rule myself). But learning through experience as you mom alongside each other can change the way you parent, improve the way you see yourself, and deepen the friendships you have with other women. 

This month take some time and mom together…then leave a comment. Let me know if it works out for you or if your experience was different.