I Am You, Or I Easily Could Be

I wrote this, from a bar on a Sunday while I am drinking Beer and eating onion rings, so … just keeping it honest.
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me and Caedmon, just loving on an ordinary day.

me and Caedmon, just loving on an ordinary day.

Yesterday I was doing a little work at the dining room table while dinner was simmering on the stove. My 3 kids were in the backyard playing in rotation with the sprinkler, the water table and the sandbox, these are outdoor toys that Kel and I provided for them, to help foster a love for playing outside. Those things didn’t just grow there, we budgeted for them, filled them and regularly make sure they have fresh water and no cat poop (because sandbox).

Type… Type… Stir Dinner… Type.. .Check on Kids.
Type… Type… Stir Dinner… Type.. .Check on Kids.
Type… Type… Stir Dinner… Type.. .Check on Kids.

This was my rhythm, and again, I wasn’t drinking gin and painting my toenails, I was working to pay my husband’s seminary bills while my children played in the sunshine.

Suddenly, in a flash, I realized something horrible, the baby was not on the INSIDE of the chain link fence, but the OUTSIDE. Just 50 yards from the busy-ish road where she could have easily chased a butterfly into traffic and gotten hit.

I shrieked and dashed outside, scooped her up and held her close, making a mental note she must have learned to open the fence I had triple checked was closed. So next step is a deadbolt I guess?

Oh Dear God thank you, for life, she is fine, that could have been so much worse.

And if it had been wore, oh world, what would you say about me? That I was selfish, career driven, neglectful? That the fence latch alone wasn’t safe? That our patio wasn’t close enough? 
Let me tell another story.

Last summer my friends and I went to IKEA, to shop and eat meatballs and buy cheap pictures frames to display our summer memories and pick up new, BPA free plates to house the healthy food we were cooking for our children. Noble pursuits.

As we were loading up our van, my kids were running around the wide awning next to the store, not the parking lot, but more like a 20 foot front patio for the store. Then, in one horrific moment, a van backed into the loading space next to us just as my 4 year old blew past me into the space the van was about to occupy. Instinct kicked in and I swept him up and away, mere inches before the van his his little body, I cannot even tell how how close it was.

If he had been hit, would we have made news? Would I be painted as a neglectful mother because I was loading bookshelves into the back our mini van? The one that’s paid for and full of carefully installed car seats? The one that takes my children to and from school each day? Would you consider calling CPS on me because I took my eyes off my moving son for a second?

Here’s the thing, there is no perfection in motherhood.

There are moments where our attention must be elsewhere, on another task or child, a book, a pot of chili, a bowl of strawberries, a basket of laundry, a bottle of nail polish, a glass of wine, but where do you draw the line?

What is acceptable for a mother in your eyes, oh America?

You chastise us for being helicopter mothers and yet when we take our eyes of our children from a moment and the worst happens you rush to paint us as self centered bums, idiots.

All to often it feels like we cannot win. Not that winning in the eyes of the general public was ever the objective to begin with.

And how dare you think that you could ever care more about the tragedy or pain of our children more than we do? As if you love them more than we do. We who wake to their cries, email their teachers, pack their lunches and have our dreams flooded with their past, present and future. We who cringe at their pain, cry when they get immunizations and face heartache, we who are crushed with the weight of our love.

So here is what I want to say to my fellow mothers, the ones that are pouring everything they have into their lives, trying to be women and mothers at the same time, no small task

Dear Gorilla Mom, Stitches Mom, Broken Arm Mom, Exhausted Mom, Mom who’s kids aren’t enrolled for any magical summer camps, Moms who are making Mac n Cheese for dinner again I want to say this:

Hi, This earth is a rough place, accidents happen and I don’t think you are doing a bad job. We are going to make mistakes, no one has 100% mess free record.

I have been begging God for guarantees that my children will stay safe since 2009, 29 seconds after my 7 year old was born.

I want a guarantee that they won’t get hit, that they won’t contract Leukemia, that their miraculous brains will stay protected even if I don’t make them wear helmets 24/7.

But you know what? And this is really, quite horrible, There are no guarantees. 0% of us get them. 

Some of us suffer more loss than others, some pain is inexplicable, the loss of a child is one I cannot fathom but one that I have no insurance against, pain and loss are not fair and and they not far away.

I think what we need more than anything is a general belief that we are all doing our level best to keep our children safe & protected. That when tragedy strikes or a scare beyond belief instead of saying “how could you look away?!” We ask, how are you? Or How can I help?

That we show up with grace, with understanding, with warmth.

That we keep an eye out for each other, that we become a village of support rather than a horde of judgement.

This mom life is all encompassing, we are losing ourselves even more than we need to. We cannot forget that the stage of all this mother-love is a fallen world where death and sickness and gravity and mistakes are key players. The worst will still happen, and last thing anyone needs is your judgement.

I could easily make a mistake at the park, or the zoo, so could you, so could your mom or your sister.

So, take a deep breath, let’s support each other, I am pretty sure that no one is as hard on a mom as a mom is.

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  • http://uphillanddown.wordpress.com megan w

    Amen. My moment was this morning while I was doing dishes and realised that no, my newly one year old daughter was not just banging on the baby gate that is at the top of our second (main) floor stairs to downstairs but she was swinging it open and shut… I panicked and swept her up trying to not picture her body at the bottom of the stairs in the worst case possible future scenario. It happens to us all, we just keep quiet. Thank you for sharing this!

    • http://www.leannepenny.com Leanne Penny

      Oh stairs, help us all! I think I’m more convinced they will be the end of me! Hot wheels on Stairs? I mean… come on!

  • http://www.redandhoney.com/ Beth Ricci

    So well said! Love this, Leanne.

    • http://www.leannepenny.com Leanne Penny

      Thank you Beth!

  • Joely

    love you sweet friend. I remember the IKEA moment like yesterday and never once thought you were neglectful. Well said, all of this! xoxo

    • http://www.leannepenny.com Leanne Penny

      Thank you love! I love you right back.

  • http://simply-rea.blogspot.com Rea

    So well said. There will always be someone saying we could have done it better, watched closer, fostered more independence, kept them indoors under our watchful eye, sent them outdoors to grow their creativity, taught them to cut their own food, not handed them the knife before they were ready to use it….etc. Nobody knows our children and their needs (and speed) better than we do.

    (PS…a stop-gap measure for the gate that we used is a bungee cord wrapped around the fence and gate posts several times and stretched REALLY tightly.)

    Signed…the mom who is surprised her kids have survived thus far and is fairly sure it has nothing to do with any excellence on her part.

    • http://www.leannepenny.com Leanne Penny

      Oh I’m doing that bungee thing tomorrow. And I’m with you on that… HOW ARE YOU ALL STILL WITH ME? THANKS GOD! thing… 😉

  • Mark Allman

    Well said Leanne

    It still bothers me how people took up the cause of the gorilla and not the mom. How so many were so quick to rush to judgement without the barest of information. I would say somethings happen so quickly sometimes that the facts may never be known. I wonder how many of those people calling for the mom’s head were actual parents because no parent is immune to what happened to her. Through a series of events I left our young daughter years ago at a ball park and did not realize it until I got home.(It was the quickest trip back and the longest time of my life to find her safe)

    It is also sad that in our world it is becoming a belief that if something bad happens then blame must be placed and quickly and no one is satisfied until they can lay that blame at someone’s feet. People voice their opinions as if they are facts.

    In this world we need to show more compassion and be ones who support and build others up; not ones who through our judgmental attitudes and rush to blame break people down.

    • http://www.leannepenny.com Leanne Penny

      amen! We just cannot know the whys and hows of every moment of someone else’s life!

      Compassion and support for the win, we simply do not need more tearing down. Most of us do that just fine on our own…