Ruffled Feathers and Spilled Milk

Farming with ducks and dairy goats, chickens and children.

Looks Like We Made It After All.

Posted on | September 7, 2012 | 12 Comments

The kids and I went to a friend’s art show last night.

I know, shocking, right?  I didn’t even realize I had kids who were old enough to go to an art show without ripping the paintings off the walls, rubbing their fingers on all the canvases, and saying things like, “This is cute, but I’m pretty sure I’ve done better.”

They even got dressed up to go.  Well, by “dressed up” I mean the boys had to wear khaki pants and a clean shirt.  Although Pretty came down looking like she was a middle schooler.  She is a middle schooler but I usually don’t notice because I still think of her as that chubby cheeked little 4 year old, dressed like a homeless person in that old Peaches ‘N Cream green striped dress.  We got it from Goodwill and it had a rip in the sleeve and a stain on the front.  But she wore it every day for weeks at a time and I can still see it flowing out behind her, 3 sizes too big, as she clutched a bottle fed baby goat under her arm to take to preschool show and tell.

My, how times change.

But it wasn’t really the change in my kids that was so shocking.  No, it was the change I noticed in my friends.  When I first moved here, Big was barely walking, Pretty was a nursing infant, and Middle and Little hadn’t even been invented yet.  And all of my friends were carrying around packages of similar size and weight.  Some of us had our kids in car seats or strollers.  Some of us carried them in slings or baby backpacks.  But all of us stumbled into the park or the coffee shop or each other’s kitchens, our hair hanging in greasy strands, our eyes bleary and blood shot, our swollen and tortured bodies unrecognizable, muttering in unison,

“Can you freaking believe this sh*t??”

Then we would gather around, sipping life-sustaining coffee, and griping whining discussing all the things they never told you about in those stupid “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” books.  I mean, I didn’t need to know 1/2 the stuff they told me about my placenta and a few more tips about how to make my husband get up and take a turn with the nighttime feedings instead of laying there, snoring away, while the fruit of his loins was screaming at the top of his lungs down the hallway.

We rejoiced over first steps and first solid foods and first poops on the potty and first lost tooth and, especially, the first weekend at Grandma and Grandpa’s house.  We consoled each other when our kids wouldn’t sleep through the night and when they were covered in repulsive rashes with Third World names like Fifth’s Disease or Hand Foot and Mouth and when they were getting bitten at preschool, or when our kid was the biter at preschool. We laughed and we cried and we commiserated.

Together we unraveled the mysteries and expectations of motherhood.  And the things we couldn’t fathom (The Teletubbies?  Really?  Were the creators of that show on crack???), we suffered through.  Sometimes we didn’t think we were going to make it.  It seemed like there was no end to the crying and the diapers, the tantrums and the bedwetting, the hitting and the bickering, the door slamming and the stair stomping.

There were times when a good day simply meant that we had managed to resist the urge to get in the car and just drive off, never to return, leaving the children and our spouse (AKA The Man Child) to fend for themselves.  We were proud when we had cut down on our screaming at the kids enough that at the end of the day we were only a little bit raspy instead of completely hoarse.   We considered it a successful trip to the grocery store when an old woman admired our toddler trying to unstrap himself from the cart and smash his skull on the concrete while she cooed, “You’ll miss these days when they’re over,” and we didn’t tackle her to the ground, screaming, “What nursing home did you escape from, you crazy hag???!!!!”

Those were the good days, people.

But at least we had each other.

Until one day we didn’t.

One day we were no longer stay-at-home moms but dropping-off-and-picking-up moms.  And volunteering-at-school moms (well, not me, God forbid, but some of us).  And, suddenly, too-busy-to-meet-for-coffee moms.  We became getting-on-with-our-lives moms.  Which is at least reassuring proof that the old saying, “This, too, will pass” is true.  Although I have yet to see the evidence of “You’ll miss these days when they’re over.”  Just passing a pregnant woman on the street makes me feel queasy.

Now when I run into my friends in town or see their status updates or sit next to them at a school awards assembly, I see that we are a new and different breed.  We are now teachers and nurses and fitness trainers and financial advisors and EMTs and restaurateurs and authors and, of course, artists.  Which are all new and different things from what we were before we had our children.  And amazing accomplishments since all those years of child raising seemed to be draining us of every last brain cell and leaving us with the desire to do nothing except sit on the couch and stare at a blank wall on the random and infrequent occasions when our children were someplace else.

There is life after children.  Looks like we made it after all.

Oh, there are still plenty of years before the last ones will leave the nest for good.  But at least our children are now all at the age of reason.  By “reason” I mean they can recognize a threatening glance from all the way at the other end of the church pew.  Plus, they possess items of value (iPad, cell phone, plans for the weekend) that can be snatched away whenever they dare to bump up against parental authority.

So I bought this great piece of art work at my friend’s art show.

Not just because it is the spitting image of one of our goats,  Julia.  Although it is.  Not just because it will look fabulous in the room with this matching photo of Middle and Julia.  Although it will.

But because whenever I look at it, I are reminded of all the years my friends and I muddled through together.  I am reminded of all those coffee clutches and park playdates and preschool field trips.  I am reminded of the amazing women who have shared my struggles and my triumphs.  And I am reminded that we are all still becoming.  Still reinventing ourselves.  Still finding our joy and our peace.

Thank you, Anna Kipp Waddell, for the beautiful art work.  Thank you, friends, for the incredible ride.  You know who you are.  And see you all on beach weekend.  Be there or be….talked about.  🙂


12 Responses to “Looks Like We Made It After All.”

  1. susann
    September 7th, 2012 @ 9:45 am

    well said (as always) and so true!

  2. Pollie
    September 7th, 2012 @ 10:26 am

    Man, this brings back so many great memories, but makes me so sad cause I miss all you guys back there. We’ve been back in Colorado for almost 5 years and not a day goes by that I don’t think of my friends back in Mebane. And honestly, I have not made any friends here like the ones I left back in NC. I was just thinking the other day when we took the kids to the beach and that storm came out of no where and we took off running to that little store on the pier. And then it passed as fast as it started, and we got the kids, went back down to the beach, found our stuff that got blown around and squeezed out the water from the towels and stayed for like another hour or so. That was some good times for sure 🙂

  3. Carolynn
    September 7th, 2012 @ 4:46 pm

    I chose not to have kids. This post makes me wish I had….Okay, not really. Honestly, it makes me really glad I didn’t. *grin* Congratulations on surviving, more or less in tact.

  4. Anne Kimball
    September 7th, 2012 @ 6:39 pm

    This was beautiful, and pretty much mirrored my experience with my kids, my friends. Loved it!

  5. Tanya
    September 7th, 2012 @ 8:50 pm

    Glad you have been there and done that so that I can ask you for advice when I need it..

  6. Lisa D
    September 8th, 2012 @ 5:44 am

    I immediately loved your company back then as I still do now. You could actually make me laugh at my misery! And I think this is one of your best posts to date!

  7. lin
    September 8th, 2012 @ 7:52 am

    That day of melancholy comes very quickly….too quickly. I, too, stayed at home and experienced what you wrote about. There were days when I went through 3 outfits (and my child as well) as I was peed, pooped, and barfed on…..all before 7 a.m. Yeah, good times. But I wouldn’t have traded it for the world.

    I’m that mom who tells everyone to “enjoy it, for you’ll miss these days” and no, I’m not nuts. I’m at the tail end of it and I’ve been down-sized, unwillingly, from my job as mom.

    I have one son in college and my daughter is a senior in high school now. I take every “last” thing we do–open house, first football game, band contest, etc.–and feel them like they were the first. It’s sad and lonesome now that they aren’t here to talk with me or laugh about dad’s poor manners. That day comes wayyyyy too fast and you are standing in your silent(albeit clean) kitchen……and you miss them. A LOT.

    It’s not the work you miss, it’s the kids. And the noise, hugs, and “I love you, Mom” that is missing each day.

    Hug those babies for me today, please. I miss mine terribly.

  8. Annabelle
    September 8th, 2012 @ 8:59 am

    Beautiful and well said. Thank you

  9. Kim
    September 9th, 2012 @ 1:43 am

    So your animals just take over where the kids left off? Pooping, eating, bleating, complaining, making mess and noise – but the threat of no iPad to a goat? Stopping the hens from going out this weekend? Threatening not to top up the pig’s cell phone in case one of his piggy friends call? Maybe the kids are easier to deal with………

  10. Anne Kimball
    September 13th, 2012 @ 3:14 am

    Good morning, my friend! Just wanted to let you know I gave you a couple of awards. They’re on my blog, so come on over and grab ’em!

  11. Cecelia King
    September 13th, 2012 @ 9:04 am

    I laughed until I cried. Different friends, same journey. Excellent writing! Thank you!!

  12. Mary-G D.
    September 17th, 2012 @ 3:59 pm

    You and the other Moms in our group all helped me to make it thru the struggling years of raising an infant to a toddler and then surviving the next phase with having a pre-schooler and infant in tow. Thanks for this wonderful post, it brought tears to my eyes and sweet memories of laughter, wonderment and extreme exhaustion. You still amaze me to this day with how you handle so much so well. I love the perspective you raise in this post and you stated it so eloquently. I also LOVE the painting you purchased – great choice my dear. If I ever get to visit again, and your painting is missing afterward, it truly is a coincidence, trust me!

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