You can’t tell from there, but I’m actually jumping up and down right now because I can’t believe that you’re reading this. In my jaunts around the Interwebs, this group of thinkers and commenters and mamas and not-mamas that hang around Girl’s Gone Child ALWAYS brighten my day, so thank you so much for allowing me to intrude into yours. The above post was inspired by the space that Rebecca has created and the community of readers who gather here. Thanks for being the coolest.
My mom will tell you that I came out of the womb broadcasting my opinions to anyone that was ready to listen. I was a strong-willed child, a strong-willed teenager and a strong-willed woman. Then, I had a child and a lot of things happened at once. The world suddenly became an obstacle course that I had to navigate through the lens of, "how would I want someone to react to my child if he makes ANY of the possible choices that he can make in this world?” I also discovered that I had common ground with a whole new team of women I had never known before because we were all putting on onesies one pant leg at a time, so to speak.
In the universal postpartum Ph.D. crash course on Becoming A Mother that we get thrown into, I was up to my ears in opinions about stroller brands, cloth diapering, breast is best, baby carriers, when to introduce what, formula brands (god forbid/no, no really, it's fine), sunscreen labels, daycare options and any and everything else. Anyone that’s reading this that knows me is nodding right now, because I can talk and talk about all things baby. I drank the kool-aid, listened to opinions, formed opinions, I read and read and read, I compared myself and judged others, I didn't look as good in my jeans as other women who gave birth at the same time I did, but then maybe I at least looked better than that lady? Maybe?
No freaking wonder new moms are exhausted. We're getting no sleep and our daily hamster wheel is laced with so much information that our steady jog toward infinity is not only futile, it's infuriating. A friend's husband once sent me a Facebook message casually asking about what stroller we bought and I can laugh about this now (kind of) but I sent him at LEAST a six paragraph opus about "easy to fold up and low profile and no loud velcro and attachments and growing with the child and attachments for second children and..." and while all of that information was good and helpful information, it was also a little rabid seeming. I had all of this knowledge that I wanted to share, but in the end, I was starting to feel like there was no substance to my substance.
I'm pregnant again, three years later, getting ready to start stumbling down the path of siblings and wondering what we're supposed to do with an infant, and that hamster wheel of opinions is starting to spin again, but also...not. In the last three years, I have connected deeply with women over the shared experience of raising children. I know that everyone says this, but it really has been a humbling experience. It's happened in the grocery line, on an airplane, with co-workers, with some of my dearest friends. Each of these examples falls somewhere on the spectrum of talking to someone who is my perfect opposite to someone who might actually just be me talking back to me, but the impact is the same. It's blown the lid off of my understanding about the 'right' way to do just about anything when it comes to parenting because each of these conversations reflects the same truth again and again: we’re all doing our best. And we’re all raising pretty awesome, unique kids. And lately it seems like a lot of us have been asking, why stop there? Assuming that we're talking about the general population of people who are just trying to be good humans, what if we decide to just act as if none of us are actually getting the rest of life wrong either? We're loving our children powerfully, and praying/hoping/voodooing that the world doesn't break their spirits one word at a time, isn't that common ground enough?
My Jiminy Cricket is my Old Lady Self. I check in with her all the time. She's kind of a wack job, super enthusiastic about wrapping herself in swaths of soft fabrics and eating really ripe and juicy pears whenever she can, and I just picture her looking back over the course of my (our) life and giggling a little about all of the things that I was so worried about. She's going to be rocking (out) in her chair, nodding her head thinking about the 10 million kisses that we laid on our children and wishing for their cheeks right then to be giving them some more kisses. She's going to be thinking about how good it felt to listen to people's stories and be part of the process of validating them. She's going to marvel about her once childish 30-year-old skin and laugh sadly about how underappreciated it was. About how her body could move. And more than anything, I know that my old lady self is not going to give one single Werther's Original about what anyone else was up to as long as they were showing up for life and trying their best. She won't have agreed with everyone, but she also really won't give a damn, and that pear-loving voice is the one that’s getting me fired up about calming down.
I have this dream of establishing a day of no opinions. A national holiday where it all gets checked at the door and the only thing that anyone in the country is allowed to do is just coexist. Feel free to mock my hippie upbringing, but then seriously think about it for a second. What if there was a day with no asinine blog comments about the color of someone’s walls, no political posturing, no nasty thoughts about the person jogging by us at the stoplight, no Facebook feeds filled with why one product is better than another? A day dedicated to talking to our kids about using our little platforms in the world (particularly this strange virtual one) for perpetuating the inevitable kindness of the golden rule, and not for all that other greyed out soul-diminishing minutia that we accidentally get sucked into. A day where moms gather and don’t talk idly about diaper brands (a conversation that I will still willingly have with any of you, by the way, just not on this day) and instead use all those words to talk about our common experience of life-piercing love and vulnerability. We all know that life if short and precious and that we are each a vessel waiting to be filled and pour ourselves back out. Every single one of us. We each catch our breath when the silvery pink clouds collect at the end of the day, or a tiny finger curls around our own, or we roll the car windows down and feel the wind whipping our hair across our mouths as we sing along. These experiences are so familiar to each of us that they’re clichés, and yet we rail against each other over nothing. We fill our air with lost time and missed opportunities and vacant words instead of just acknowledging that we're weird creatures inhabiting a wild earth, connecting over stewardship and light, and that if we’re trying, we’re not really getting it wrong.
This is what I want to talk about all the time with everyone, but then I get busy and I forget. I want to talk about your story and why you're awesome and how just because I'm doing it that way doesn't mean that you shouldn't do it this way. And I'm hoping that you want to talk about it too, that we can help each other remember to save our opinions for our true passions. I'm hoping that maybe we can take it to the streets and be an army of our Old Lady Selves and not give a damn and look each other in the eye and smile just because we’re all showing up for life today. I'm hoping that my kids are going to be graduating into a world that isn't dominated by divisiveness and short-sightedness and that they will be safe and nurtured and celebrated without a compulsive fear that they might get slandered for the color of their backpack. And in the land of wwwDOT, I’m trying to think of myself, of each of us, as content generators and remember that those words, those idle comments, that obsession with the stranger’s lives that I follow, those are my actions too. We have to ban together to make it work though, our freak flags have to fly under the banners of empathy and acceptance and diligence. We have to help each other. I’m trying to learn that I may have been born sharing all of my opinions, but I don’t really need to go out that way.
And ya’ll, more than anything, I'm hoping that I never, ever send someone a thesis about what stroller to use ever again. If I've learned anything from becoming a mother and connecting with so many incredible women, I've learned that the one with the wheels, the one that gets you out the door and into the world, that one will do just fine.
Amelia Walton lives and works in Charlottesville, VA with two and half other super awesome Waltons. As it turns out, she doesn’t really like pina coladas or getting caught in the rain, but she does get a kick out of the way that people hunch over and start to run when the first drops fall. You can give her a cheap thrill by checking things out on her blog, Flux Capacitating.