A couple of summers ago we rented a lake house at my husband’s old stomping ground, Smith Mountain Lake, Virginia. We found an incredible house online and started planning what we hoped would be an amazing trip. There was a buzz of excitement around the house as the trip drew near, especially from my husband as most of his formative years were spent on this lake in the summertime and I knew how excited he was to share it with us.
A couple of weeks before we were to leave, he dropped the bomb on me that due to work he would have to fly to and from Virginia instead of road tripping it with us. I was peeved (I said some words that most definitely can’t be repeated here) but I tend to roll with the punches so I continued to plan with my favorite backseat driver, my mom. We were facing an 11 hour road trip with a 6-year-old, 4-year-old, and an exclusively breast-fed 9-month-old baby, and we were one man down. Time to call in the big guns: Pinterest. Thank God for ingenious homeschoolers (I’m sure that there are lots of brilliant moms out there, but those homeschoolers seem to have it on lock.) I found an awesome “Are We There Yet” idea and all I needed was twine, clothespins, and Siri to point out the big cities along my route, and BAM! I had an awesome way for my kids to pass the time! I even added my own flare and drilled holes in some wooden toy cars so they could slide them along the twine (of course this led to an epic meltdown since those were their “favorite cars in the whole entire universe,” but they got over it). Each boy had their own set of clothespins with the same destination on them, so when they finally met in the middle of the twine, it meant that we had arrived. I’m proud to say that the road trip was a smashing success, although it would’ve gone faster if I was able to toss my boobs over my shoulder so that the baby could’ve eaten on the go, but you can’t win ‘em all.
Messy Twine Ball
We still look back and talk frequently about that summer. We really did have an incredible time and made memories that we laugh about to this day. I recently came across a picture of the older boys in the back seat with their “Are We There Yet” contraption, and I remembered how excited they were when they got to take a clothespin off of the twine and their respective wooden cars moved closer to our final destination. It got me thinking about this past year of life and how I’ve been "removing clothespins" trying to get to my personal destination in this road trip called motherhood. I was looking at the next clothespin, the one closer to my destination, and not really embracing where I was currently. My life is fast-paced and the past few months have definitely brought me to a screeching halt. Allow me take you on a super condensed journey of the last 10 months of this crazy ride in Mommyland.
It all started with a conversation with a friend in July 2016. “So Brooke, what’s it like having three rambunctious boys? I bet you go to the ER a lot.”
“Honestly, it’s not that crazy. We’ve never had a broken bone and only had stitches once.” Word to the wise my friends, don’t say those words. EVER.
Two weeks later my middle son fell off of the playground while at “Camp Grandma” and broke his arm. September came and my youngest got his first set of stitches. In December, he decided that stitches were just awesome so he went in for another set of them, this time on his chin. Fast forward to February - our babysitter made a poor judgment call and my youngest broke his leg. Not to be left out, in April my oldest crashed his bike on his way home from school and broke his arm. And let’s round it out with my youngest breaking his collarbone at a Cub Scout party JUST LAST WEEK (gym floors are HARD and unforgiving). It was like I jinxed my babies. There is nothing worse than seeing them in pain. It literally takes my breath away. This also got me thinking about how I’m parenting my children. In all honesty, it made me call into question every single decision I’ve made for them in the past and it made me second-guess everything that I do now. That’s no way to be a mom.
Too Free Range?
We live in the “country” portion of Orlando, Florida and we’re surrounded by woods. When not in school, my boys are outside a majority of the day either exploring, playing, or swimming. We have cameras all around our property where I can see where they are at any given moment, so I tend not to hover over them and I most certainly don’t put them in a bubble. They ride skateboards, jump ramps on their bikes, my oldest rides a dirt bike, we soap up the trampoline for wrestling matches (it’s got a very strong net, don’t panic), and we have epic Nerf gun battles where they shoot me from the big oak trees in the front yard. The past few months have caused me to analyze if I give my boys too much leeway when it comes to “dangerous” activities and my boys could tell that there was a battle going on in my head. They’re very active kids, broken bones and stitches are almost a rite of passage, but then it dawned on me that I wasn’t second-guessing my parenting because I felt that I wasn’t being a good mom. I was only second-guessing because I was so concerned about what other moms would think of me. And my kids suffered for it. My nervousness made them less confident in things that they had always loved and I noticed them not enjoying the outside as much as they had in the past. I knew then that it was time to take down my twine, burn the clothespins, and not worry so much about the final destination of motherhood, but rather enjoy and be fully present with what I was blessed with that day.
Meeting in the Middle
Much like the “Are We There Yet” game, I’ve come to realize that while I’ll never be a helicopter mom, there is a middle ground and for me that middle ground is grace. My boys live their lives 100 mph and they LOVE it. Their smiles and laughter when they are doing what makes them happy is the best thing in the world. Of course I have rules, I definitely have consequences, but I also know that there are these fleeting moments in life that will pass them by in a heartbeat and I don’t want them to miss out on those times because they just may be the best times of their lives. What I’ve come to fully realize over these past few months is that God made me specifically for my boys. He knew that blood and broken bones wouldn’t send me into a panic. I’m super calm, I make jokes, I assure my boys through my actions that everything will be OK. He knew exactly what kind of mom they needed to thrive in this life, just as He knows exactly what we all need in all of our circumstances. He's never left my side during my moments of doubt and triumphs as a mom, and I believe this applies to everyone. This applies to marriages that are struggling (God is there in the hurt), it applies to those “money pit” houses where everything seems to break at once (you’re making memories in that home regardless), and it applies to something as personal as a health journey (to eat the donut or not eat the donut? That is the question. One moment while I wipe the glaze from my fingers). What all of these crazy months has taught me is that when I remember He's got me, I'm able to embrace the suck, even if we’re taking yet another trip to the ER.
Brooke is warrior mama to three rambunctious boys, wife to an honest, hardworking man, daughter to one of the greatest humans our great God ever created, and friend to anyone who talks to her. She's has been dubbed "the most inappropriate friend." She lives for a good belly laugh and to bring laughter to others - laughter feeds her soul. She loves the outdoors (not like hiking or rock climbing - she's not that cool - more like standing in the sunshine listening to nature!) and she finds God in the simple things.