Many years ago I read one of my favorite books – The Perfect World Inside My Minivan, by Marybeth Hicks. It is a compilation of her articles. With her I laughed, I cried, and I laughed again – I no longer felt quite as alone in the world of motherly self-doubt and distorted image of other’s perfection. I remember sitting in my bed laughing, crying and choking as I read to John her chapter titled “Imagining Life as the Worlds Best Mom” – as Marybeth shares her experience “…crept slowly towards her back bumper…..I was (sort of) in the presence of greatness. Its red letters were outlined in gold: ‘World’s Best Mom’. There she was. I couldn’t believe it. The world’s best mom was driving the van right in front of me. She had just dropped her children at school, and now she must be headed home for a day of world-class motherhood.” She goes on to speculate about the world’s best mom – orderly home, laundry caught up, heart warming errands, organized and productive days.
Well, then it happened to me. It was an early morning football game for Jack. Everyone else warmly tucked in bed, we headed out into the chilly spring morning and headed down to the park. I wasn’t even in the minivan! At first we talked and laughed, and then got lost in thought – mine went something like “can’t believe I have to go on a business trip on a Sunday….ugh…..better get everything done today….yep – all today….seriously – another trip! focus Catherine!! don’t forget anything before you can put it in your phone….menu, grocery shopping, cleaning, laundry – lots of laundry, present for party, party invitations…..seriously – a trip on a Sunday! ….FOCUS…..when should we go to church? FOCUS! …..menu, grocery, shopping, cleaning, laundry, school folders, laundry again, packing, e-mails, shucks! forgot about the newsletter to write – ugh! ….” and then I did see her! She was there in front of me in a minivan! Just like I had read she would be. Her hair was perfectly cut, colored and styled. Her smile big and her face glowed. She turned up the music a little as she broke out in dance and song – inviting the kids in the car to join. Their heads bopped and she smiled big. There she was – the perfect mom! – beautiful, smiling and having fun on this chilly early Saturday morning. WOW! And I bet her van was perfectly orderly and clean too! I looked over at Jack as he stared out the window lost in thought. Should I apologize for not being her? Should I suggest he jump out of the car and run to her van while the light was still red? Oh goodness! I bet her son is on Jack’s team – and probably a star quarterback and she has the perfect home-made snacks to share. There she was – shining, glowing, smiling – the perfect mom so close and I did not know what to do!
I tailed her to the park……by default, and not intention! Yes her son was on the team. Having not left the house in time to get my morning addiction of Starbucks – I dropped Jack off for warm up and nipped over. This of all mornings I was going to need my liquid gold to keep me going for the next couple of hours. I parked around the corner from Starbucks and jumped out of the car. As I scurried I saw her park across the road. Seriously??!! Do you have to stalk me with your perfection? Two girls with her, she held their hands as they laughed and ran across the road. When was the last time I did that? Hmmm…..back in “Never”? I think I’m usually counting them all before we cross, screaming RUUUUUUUN!!!! as we race across, and then counting them again to make sure no kid was left behind.
Scurrying some more I made it into Starbucks before her. She stood behind me in line as she would kneel down to whisper to the girls gently and kindly eye-to-eye……I do that sometimes! Yep – sometimes….mental note – do it more often! The girls debated what they wanted and turned to her for direction. Then I heard her sweetly say “Oh, I don’t know”. What??!! You don’t know?? You are the perfect mom – you know it all! Then that chattering started as they went back and forth trying to decide what they could or could not have. This mom of little patience and fast decision making was a tad less than impressed. Surely I was just being snarky! I grabbed my drink and hustled to my car. Raced back to the park and paced the field – freezing cold – watching Jack warm up, run around, be goofy and tackle the coach to the ground way too many times.
There she was – sitting on the sidelines in her cute outfit (ugh – if only I could carry that off!), with the girls in matching cute outfits, and all snuggled up in some great looking blankets sipping their drinks and giggling as they watched the boys. I continued to pace in my old jeans, not warm enough sweatshirt and hair in a messy pony tail. She looked over and smiled at me. Me? I looked over my shoulder – maybe a friend? Oh my goodness! The almost perfect mom was smiling at me! After pacing the field a few more times we finally made contact. A hello, how are you, geez it is chilly followed by which is your son. We compared notes and smiled – it felt like we were sizing each other up – sizing each other up? No way! We moms don’t do that right??!!
Lets face it – we were – it happens. We chatted some more and compared those statically significant get-to-know-you’s …..where do you live, how many kids, what school, what do you do? She was nice. Very pleasant. I could cut her some slack for not being decisive in the Starbucks line since after all she was behind me. Then she said it ….the words I don’t ever expect from the perfect mom…..”Wow! You are amazing!” followed by “I don’t know how you do it all plus have six kids and work full time – you are amazing!”. Huh??!! say that again! Then she adds on “I have half the kids and don’t work and I can’t keep up – you really are amazing!”. The almost perfect mom thought I was amazing!
So after the game Jack and I loaded back up in our little cold car. We smiled and laughed and re-played the best plays of the game. I may not have the perfect hair, big smile, or cleanest van in town – but – I have six wonderful kids who love me and that makes me the most blessed mom! On Mother’s Day Jack lovingly said “I think you are the best mom in the world! You are the best mom ever!! As a matter of fact I think you are right up there with [the virgin] Mary as most amazing mom ever ever ever!” ……to which I responded “Oh buddy, that is so sweet – I can only try to be a bit as wonderful as Our Mother”. Michael chimes in with “Well, how hard could it be to raise the perfect son who could do no wrong? I mean – HE WAS JESUS – so I think your job is at least ten times harder….should be six but Jack counts as more!”.
Now when I am out in the car with the kids I do still stare into the distance making my mental to-do lists before I forget….but then I catch myself grateful for the blessed moment with my kids in the car….and sometimes I just turn up the music and with my awkward smile, straggly mom pony-tail and messy car, I break out into song and get the kids dance with me. Who knows what the car behind me is thinking….
Here is to every perfectly imperfect and blessed mom – know that to someone else you are amazing!