Blankets are warm, toasty, and enveloping. They make you feel safe, protected, and happy. But they can also suffocate you.
My particular familial blanket was carefully planned and prayed for. Twice. I love my sons, I love being a stay-at-home mom, but I admit it can get a little stuffy and claustrophobic under this heavy wool blanket of motherhood.
Who I was before Tall and Short arrived on the scene: wife, friend, daughter, flight attendant, artist, writer, athlete, college grad. I was well-read, well-traveled, and well-liked. I remember being interesting, strong, creative, driven, meticulous (where has that word gone in my life?), goal-oriented, witty, energetic (ahh, “meticulous” is cozying up to “energetic” is some faraway galaxy), helpful, opinionated (well, at least that part is still the same), and dare I say—pretty.
Now, I might best be described as: messy. My hair is messy (why do I always come back to my hair? I could write an entire blog post about my non-cooperative hair), my outfit is messy, my brain feels messy, my house is messy … there is no part of my life that isn’t messy (this is difficult for my alter-ego, ultra-neat-freak Miss Virgo, to reconcile). Where did the messy come from? Why do I allow it?
It’s just … my life is different now. The focus is off of me. Instead of “I think I’ll trade my Chicago trip for a Maui layover instead,” or “Should I buy that cute Nordstrom top in black or red—oh, what the heck, I’ll get both,” or “I’m excited to try that popular new restaurant this Saturday night,” now my life is, “Should we go to Disney or Lego Land for vacation,” and “Tall needs new soccer cleats,” and “Who wants to order pizza?” The only part of the equation that involves MOV is: who is paying and who is driving.
Do people even look at me anymore? Probably not. I have evolved into a hybrid robot mom—part child’s social planner, part cook, part homework helper. I blend in with the dozens of other moms at the “Back to School Night” meeting: blonde hair pulled back in a sloppy ponytail, wrinkled khakis (most likely covered with clumps of fluffy white cat fur), navy blue sweater (may or may not have a small ketchup stain on the sleeve), a turquoise necklace (my pathetic nod to fashion), and as an afterthought, a smear of burgundy lipstick hastily applied at the stoplight.
The teacher does not recognize me (that’s ok, I don’t recognize myself) because I am virtually interchangeable with any of the other chameleon moms here. We all form an unremarkable beige backdrop to the abundant primary colors and giant alphabet letters plastered around the classrooms. Oh, sure, Lisa is still in her scrubs (is she showing off that she is a doctor? or was she simply rushed like the rest of us mortals?) and Dan and Dave (being the sole gay parents in the room) stereotypically wear freshly dry-cleaned slacks and checkered shirts and striped ties (looking like they just stepped off the pages of a J. Crew catalog, and Dan very well may have, as he’s a set stylist for a living), making the rest of us look bad even as we pretend otherwise.
As I glance around the room, I spot clues that these people are real. I notice gray roots in Jennifer’s hair, dried-on baby spit-up on Denise’s shoulder, un-Botoxed wrinkles around Cheryl’s eyes. I witness Melanie covertly chewing her nails, and Brenda trying to chip caked-on mud off her rain boots with a broken pencil. Like ice that has melted in a forgotten glass of lemonade on the patio during an August heat wave, motherhood has made us watered-down blurry versions of our former selves.
Who are we trying to impress now? People who are 45 inches tall and like to watch cartoons?
I dwell for a moment on yesterday morning. Short had a nightmare and wanted to get in bed with us around 5 AM. As he cuddled up to me, I inhaled his sweet preschooler scent, a mix of soft skin, fruity toothpaste, and baby shampoo.
“Mommy, please share the blanket,” he whispered. And I did.