Friday, June 3, 2011

 "Tales From the Crib" is my normal Friday ritual - though I miss a Friday from time to time.  What's "Tales From the Crib" you ask?  For that, look here.  Then look here.  "Things My Two Year Old Taught Me" morphed into "Tales From the Crib" in the beginning of January - so I could include both my daughter and my son - neither of whom are two right now.  I thought the change was appropriate.  


I am one of those moms who puts a lot of care into her children's appearance.  I know it's ridiculous - I do, but A) I feel that if I look like crap, they have to at least look awesome because that gives me an excuse, B) it takes MUCH less effort to make THEM look cute than to make myself look cute, and C) have you ever gone shopping for kids?  The adorable stuff out there makes it almost impossible to NOT dress them adorably.  

So, yes.  My daughter wears skirts more than she wears jeans.  And yes, she does wear leggings and tutus and crazy tights and all the trendy things I could never possibly pull off.  She gets her hair done most mornings, and if I ever forget, she brings me the case of hair supplies, the comb and the spray bottle and sits in my lap.  So it isn't a battle or anything.

Her brother, on the other hand, is a huge battle.  Every morning.  A HUGE, disgusting, snips and snails, DIRTY BOY battle.  I thought it would be years before I'd have to explain why taking a shower regularly was so important.  I also thought that once potty trained, my son would be loathe to sit in pull-ups.  But there he is, every morning, shouting at me about not wanting to get dressed.  He would sit in his soggy, overnight pull-up with his mismatched Scooby Doo/Thomas the Train pj's (because he couldn't choose just one so he had to wear the tops of one and the bottoms of another...) all sweaty from the night before (because he refuses to let go of any of his blankets or comforter for the summer months) ALL DAY LONG.  If I would let him.  I know a lot of it is to see how far he can push me.  Inevitably, though, he ends up in his adorable plaid shorts and coordinating distressed/appliqued t-shirt looking like he walked out of the Children's Place.

Now, please don't get me wrong here.  I don't spend all my money on kid's clothes (I mean, hello, there are crafting supplies to be bought).  But I DO shop thrift stores, garage sales and outlet malls and yes, I scoop up the name brands from time to time.  I'm not really a snob though.  It doesn't have to be Baby Gap to be cute, right?

My point with all of this is simply to admit that I suppose I'm a little vain.  Not for myself, mind you.  No one could admit to being vain when they arrive at the grocery store and realize they forgot to 1) do their makeup, 2) comb their hair, 3) shower, 4) look in the mirror, AND 5) change out of their paint clothes.  And, no, I'm not making that up.  That has really happened.  More than once.  But I'm a little, tiny bit vain about my kids.  It doesn't help that people stop us all the time to comment on "those beautiful eyes!", "That gorgeous hair!", "Those adorable children!", "what well-behaved kids!".  Having nothing to do with me, it still causes somewhat of a big head.  

So yes.  I dress them in stripes and plaids and polka dots (not at the same time - jeez, what a mess!) and I match their tops to their bottoms and I comb their hair and give mini pigtails and make sure they aren't wearing two different socks and that they aren't wearing mud shoes out in public.  Not all the time.  But usually, yes.  And just to clarify, I have no problem with other kids who wear mud shoes or socks that don't match.  I myself wore mud shoes and moccasins and socks that didn't match and perhaps didn't wash my hair for two weeks when I was young.  Maybe that's a contributing factor to my philosophy now.

Today I got them dressed.  They were cute, if I do say so myself.  mini was wearing an adorable summer sundress with little contrasting capris leggings and had a ponytail high on her head.  bug was dressed in some adorable homemade pants from my mom, a crisp white t-shirt and cute matching flip-flops.  He let me "do his hair" - which means getting it wet so it will be curly and not fuzzy.

For the record, my niece K (whom I watch during the day) also ALWAYS looks adorable.  It stands to reason - mini gets all of her hand-me-downs.

I don't have any pictures, but you get the mental image.  They were all cute.

And it was a gorgeous day.  The sun beckoned to us.  So we decided to go to the park.  And not just any park.  The one we usually avoid because it is big and maze-like and right next to the beach - so who knows what could happen if I lost one of them??  But we chanced it today.  I was in that kind of "free-spirit" mood.

I forgot my camera, and as I watched them swing and see-saw and slide and sift the sand through their hands I lamented that oversight.  They were having the time of their lives.  

Before we left the park we took a walk down to the water.  At first I made them stay back, worrying over the sand and wet and muck that would cling to them and get all over my car and make it impossible to snap any kind of cute picture upon returning home.  But then I remembered my childhood.

The one where I was free to run and climb trees and wear whatever crazy concoction of clothes I wanted and be wild (in the neighborhood and within reason, of course).  The one where I made clubs with my best friend for the poor dead birds we found in the road and buried behind her garage with rites, prayers and tombstones.  The one where I scorned barbies for mud pies and stayed in the sandbox until all hours.  The one where I mistakenly and against my parents wishes created a clubhouse under the porch only for my mother to discover me LITERALLY COVERED head to toe in tiny black bugs at the dinner table.  The one where I sometimes had to be given two baths a day to get the grime out of my fingernails.

So I took a step back.  I breathed in the sun and wind and Spring.  And I let them go.  

They threw sticks in the water and laughed as the waves carried them back and forth.  They dug their fingers into the rocky, dirty sand and searched for tiny shells.  They sang and danced and twirled.  bug threw his shoes off - reminding me so much of the smaller version of myself who had to be forced into shoes in the summertime.  

mini was afraid at first - the waves were loud and she's not used to the lake.  But she warmed up slowly and wanted to walk to her two bigger, older friends.  Being unsteady on the uneven and sloping ground, she fell a few times before sitting on her bum and scooting across the grass, across the dirt, across the sand to the wet shoreline.

The crazy, vain me inside wanted to protest.  Wanted to cringe and grab her and brush her off and force bug's shoes back on and make them leave so we could bathe and change and take that cute picture I'd been wanting.

But amazingly, the vain me - though it wanted to - did not do any of those things.  The vain me smiled.  And loved it all.

The vain me learned a valuable lesson.  Photos of those crisp, clean, cute kiddos are merely fantasies.  They aren't life.  And isn't that what I want to capture and remember forever?  The life we ACTUALLY lived?

Sometimes, life is messy.  Sometimes life is downright dirty and disgusting.  But that's reality.  It's how we handle those disgusting moments that really counts.  Do we rush away to clean ourselves off - avoiding the mess and the growth and the learning we could achieve?  Or do we embrace the mess and make the most of it?  

The dirt and grime may actually be better than sterilization in the long run.  It may even make us smile.  If not in the moment, then eventually.

*Be sure to check just below for all the fun parties I link to!

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