It took me four days to paint a bunk bed. It would be one thing if I could say “to paint a bunk bed well” but I can’t quite claim that. On day three I was surly, feeling like there was no reason this project should be consuming my week. How did all afternoon only produce a few white boards?
There was that quick interruption when I had to change sheets (twice) on account of a two year old having a rough day and wetting them. Also on the subject of potty troubles, I plunged the toilet twice on account of a four year old who believes one roll of toilet paper per sitting should do the job. It would have been quick clean up if he had thought to get me instead of flushing again…and again… and again until the floor and rugs were sopping wet with dirty water. Oops. That load of laundry included five towels and two rugs.
Then “I just need to switch laundry real quick” turned into “How did the mudroom get this muddy?” which turned into a quick vacuum, dumping muddy pants into the washer, and of course returning to the paint project.
About that time I heard a bus and two more heads appeared with, “Where’s our snack?” ”Here’s my homework.” ”Don’t forget to sign this.” ”I’m still hungry.” ”When’s dinner?”
Dinner it was and well after that before I found the paint smudge on my nose.
After all was quiet and four little eyes were closed in sleep I went to switch the laundry again. Hanging over my old, breaking dryer I recalled my first sobering “I can only do so much!” moment as a parent and how it was ironically spurred by a laundry commercial.
It was the middle of the night and I was nursing a baby in the dark living room with the TV on in miserable attempt to keep my eyes open. I’m certain there was yet more laundry piled on the floor, dried spit up on the couch armrest, and a pile of toys I couldn’t summon energy to clean before bed. I do remember it had been a day similar to the painting day- full of interruptions and good intentions derailed. One of those days you can’t recall what you did, but wow- was it ever hectic.
On came an Electrolux commercial with Kelly Ripa.
Nothing like a tan, perky, put together woman grinning her way through a demonstration of an amazing washer and dryer while I’m curled up on the couch with a nursing baby, bed head, retainers in, to make me feel… un-perky. I’m sorry Kelly, I’m trying to hear what you’re saying but your amazing biceps are distracting me. Will the washer and dryer make my hair silky and flippable like that? I think I may be drooling. (Oh, nope- that was the baby.) Good NIGHT woman how do you get those teeth so white?! Did you pick that outfit? The color is fabulous… how old are these pajama pants I’m wearing?
For a past midnight, delirious moment I believed. I believed when Kelly flicks her wrist full of bouncy, clean laundry, it folds itself. I believed she can pull a tablecloth out from a full table setting without rocking the vase of fresh flowers. She convinced me that every closet is organized, every baby book up to date, and there probably aren’t even crumbs in her car. Does she even know what rotten milk in a lost sippy cup smells like? She probably wakes up and has a good workout before making a hearty breakfast for her family, arrives at the studio for makeup and is professionally stunning by 8am. When was the last time I was stunning by 8am? Thus was born The Kelly Ripa Illusion.
“Okay that’s extreme.” I laughed at myself but as I was burping the baby I stopped, mid-burp. ”Wait. Kelly Ripa has three kids like I have three kids. Sure, she probably has an unorganized closet somewhere but she looks incredible. Wait. How does she work, manage three kids, have calves like that, and do commercials like this? A grocery store trip takes my whole day!” My eyes narrowed. ”Ripa- what’s your secret?” I fought the wave of overwhelmed desperation and grasped for a rational thought. It came.
Kelly Ripa has 24 hours in her day just like I do.
The struggle is universal and though I’ve never discussed it with Kelly I’m convinced she experiences the same battle of expectations; of others expecting her to be larger than life when she sometimes wants to dissolve into a puddle and let someone else mop her up. She may have even suffered a moment of Mom guilt from not enough stories read, not a long enough tuck in, or a snack not homemade enough (but it probably was still organic. Come on, she’s Kelly freaking Ripa.)
I felt myself being pulled by what I hope of myself, what my husband wants, what my kids need, what my church expects, and should I be bringing in some income? Why didn’t I get my master’s when I had the chance? Wasn’t there someone I should have brought dinner to? Oh no, I’ve never even exposed my kids to classical music!
That is how an Elextrolux commercial caused me to cry out to God. “Lord- I will never be put together enough, will never do enough, never have energy enough, never will have a clean car, clean bathrooms, and clean kids on the same day…”
I was reassured. I was reassured that there are enough hours in my day to do what God has placed in front of me. It might not mean Kelly Ripa biceps (but some days and some seasons, it might). It doesn’t mean leisurely quiet time all morning but it does mean I wake before my family to use some moments for prayer and study. It means saying no to perfectly good things when they don’t line up with the very important things. It means being intentional with the time I do have, and constantly asking the Lord what it should look like.
My wise grandmother once told me that I don’t need to chase every passion, every desire, every gift from God in one swoop. She told me to let God dictate which ones get used in which seasons and let go of the rest. (Clearly I’m in a raising kids season so I’m foregoing Today Show appearances and learning that laundry folding/wrist flicking trick… you know… for the kids.)
For the first time in eight years I have a two year old without a baby close behind. I regularly sleep decent stretches and can do more than a grocery store trip in a day. It’s easy to give in to The Kelly Ripa Illusion and overshoot. ”I’ll run a marathon! I’ll write a book! I’ll get a job! I’ll take in another foster child! I’ll travel! I’ll eliminate poverty!”
Then I remember a glowing Kelly, Electrolux, and that I need to ask the Lord “what for this season?”
Apparently this season was a bunk bed. Anything else was overshooting. In fact, my idea to write this “quick fluffy little blog” may have been an overshot. In the previous paragraph alone I was interrupted no less than four times for help on the toilet (what is with these kids!?), for a bike crash, for mud in the eyes, and to reheat my coffee because this is taking altogether too long.
Just throwing myself out there a bit...