I did something last week.
I replaced a couple pairs of pants. One pair was replaced due to rips, the other was replaced due to size. They were just too tight. Honestly, they were probably too tight when I bought them but I wasn’t ready to level my size up yet.
I have always been a petite person and one compliment I have always been able to count on is how small my jeans are. It’s trivial and vain and somewhat embarrassing to admit, even to myself, but that became a part of my identity.
Every time I have purchased new jeans over the last 4 years, I have had every intention of buying the next size up and I replace my jeans pretty often. This stage of life has me crawling around on the floor, running through the woods, splashing in puddles, digging in the dirt, hauling wood, and having any number of things wiped on my clothes regularly. I have just accepted that I am hard on my wardrobe right now and find thrift store purchases so I don’t feel as bad when they are destroyed.
I make these trips to my favorite Thrift store, one run by our church whose funds go to mission work, and I dig through the rack. I find jeans that look like they should fit, I check the tag, and somehow always convince myself to buy my “usual” size. It’s like this pull inside of me that hasn’t wanted to give up. That doesn’t want to admit that it is no longer my “usual” size. I fought all those feelings the other day, and I bought the bigger jeans, took them home, washed them up, and tried them on. They fit. They fit comfortably and completely, in a way that was exponentially more flattering than squeezing into the old pair. They fit my stage of life, they fit my new body.
This same week I also had a girls day with my daughter. Because she is 100% my daughter, her request was to explore the woods, wear fancy dresses, and read books.
We trekked through the woods behind our house and ran back home on the road. During this time I formulated a plan to show her the fanciest dress I have ever and will ever own; the dress I wore when I said “I do.”
She was thrilled by the prospect and helped me haul it out of storage in her best two year old manner. The next step was to wash up and dress up to surprise the boys when they got home. That was the plan, but I got a phone call instead.
My husband had run into a snag on his four wheeler ride and ended up with a popped tire. I had to load up racks and drive out to pick up him and my son.
I had been so excited to share this moment with them. To get a little fancy and surprise my husband with the girl he walked down the aisle toward. Especially since we have been working so hard together all summer and I have been sporting carharrts and sweatshirts devoid of any glamor.
I thought it would be a special moment to reflect on us and focus in on the bride label. The beauty and grace, excited to spend the rest of our lives together, full of hope and promise, ready to dance the night away bride.
What he needed in that moment, however, was the hands-on, ready to help partner and wife. He needed my love and enthusiasm to show up in a different way.
Sometimes it is hard to be pulled away and have to love differently than we planned on. Whether in marriage or parenting.
We make our plans and have our intentions and then our people need us to show up for them in an entirely different way than we expected.
I’ve been packing all week long for an out-of-state trip and have been trying to focus so much on quality time for my children before disembarking. I’ve never left them for this long and I want to fill them up with all the love I can before leaving. I’ve done my best, but they don’t always want the time when I try to give it. They want alone time when my hands are free and all my attention when I’m elbow deep in a sink of dishes. I haven’t been quite the zen mom I hoped to be all week, but I have been a loving mom and had to maintain discipline which is a form of love.
Yes, they can have my time. No. It won’t always be convenient but I also don’t want to play into the control game. The “on my terms only” attitude that children (and grown ups) can display at times.
So I loved them in all the ways I was able and all the ways they knew how to ask for all week long. That one extra story, the easy going mornings with an open lap and favorite snacks. Playing legos or chase. Mixing favorite meals together, some handwritten notes yet to be discovered.
And I continued to show love in the ways they needed too. The loving correction for inappropriate conduct, the time spent in a room or privileges removed.
I read an article the other day by a self declared “mean mom” who spoke of normal and healthy discipline for her child. Things that I do with my own and yet I actually consider myself a more “gentle” parent because it is done with tenderness and a concern for their future.
It’s another label that falls short; we can try to squeeze into the box of mean mom or gentle mom, slim mom, glamorous mom, working, natural, etc. So many things to divide and discuss and so many variations within all of those. So many ways they don’t actually cover who we are as Children of God. As human beings who are doing their best in all the craziness thrown at them.
I did get the dress on, eventually, for a dance with my daughter. I washed up after rescuing the men of the household and it turns out it was a good thing they were home. My husband had to help me squeeze back into this dress with loving hands that appreciate the ways our love and figures have grown over the past 6 years. With a heart that appreciated the various labels that I have worn over the course of our relationship as a fellow income earner, as a wife, as stay at home mom. Even in this strange season where my daughter label is pulling heavier on my heart.
He has a soul that has loved me for all that I am and is a friend that works well beside me and cheers me on in my strengths and struggles.
He has helped to show our children the joy of expressing love to one another.
A few days ago my daughter burst into the pantry and began slinging snacks every which way. I was in the midst of various other tasks and felt my shoulders tighten at the prospect of another interruption. Without saying a thing, my son slips in and organizes the whole thing. He picks up the mess, rearranges and can not wait to show off his handiwork. So I love him with praises and thanks and get to share with him how what he did was an expression of love to mommy. That he valued my time and efforts, that he surprised me with his help and made me feel appreciated.
His eyes lit up at this information, the realization that he holds that power. That he has the ability to love me in the unexpected ways that I so desperately need. Just like his daddy, just like our Lord. Just like the rest of us can as we sort this crazy world out and care more for people than the labels they wear.