When my husband and I prepared our home for our newborn son, Max, I went to the baby superstore with one thing in mind: We will NOT be one of those families with a house full of multi-colored baby crap. So I carefully selected a high chair, pack n’ play, and other items that coordinated with our home’s “décor.”
Now, I didn’t put décor in quotes because I have a fundamental misunderstanding of grammar. I used the quotes because if you were sitting here with me while I told you this story, I’d use air quotes to describe our home’s furnishings and wall “art.” See there? I did it again.
No one would mistake us for interior decorators, but we were quite proud of our two-year-old living room set and gigantic TV armoire. I refused to let some baby come in and mess up the harmony of details that was our living space.
The parents among you already know the ending to this part of the story. But for those of you who aren’t parents, here’s a picture of the corner of my living room. Okay, that’s not my living room, but you get the idea.
Turns out, my child’s joy and laughter are the best accessories in any room. Yes, I still look forward to the day when we can have a sofa made out of a fabric that doesn’t repel juice like turtle wax on the hood of a car. But really, would I rather sit on a luxurious sofa while I scrub stains out of it or casually brush them off and continue chasing my son around the now-foam-padded coffee table with my hand shoved up a monkey puppet?
Being a parent has made me realize so much about myself, life, and the living of it that I could fill a baby superstore with tidbits of wisdom and wake-up calls.
But here’s the real lesson: How do I apply this stain-resistant, mismatched attitude to the rest of my life?
I run my own business. I have a husband. I have collected, over the years, a stellar line-up of friends and social connections. I volunteer and sometimes go to church. And I’m writing a book.
In my obstinacy to do all these things in accordance with the established “décor,” I often miss the most beautiful parts. I get so caught up in doing it “right” or looking good to others while doing it that I miss the laughter. I miss the breathless exhaustion after going all out and throwing caution to the wind on a creative project. I miss making my husband snort with glee at the hand-up-a-monkey-puppet moments. I miss showing my friends a good time with paper plates and cheap off-brand sodas in the dim light of a once-in-a-lifetime sunset from my back porch.
Nobody is perfect. Our living rooms don’t match. Our makeup isn’t always on. Our business ideas aren’t always great. And sometimes our children go to school with snot on their faces.
These are the things that make us human.
These are the things that make me real. So today, instead of agonizing over any detail—any detail at all—I’m going to step back and look at the real picture, the one where everyone is messy…and smiling.