People tell me that I'm so relaxed for someone who has four kids, which I'm never sure is meant to be an actual compliment or is just secret code for "You're a crazy lunatic," which by all counts is fairly accurate.
I've always been much better at acting how other people think I should act, a chameleon who can transform into a liker of all things. Having kids is a surefire way to bust all your favorite hiding places. It has a way of forcing you (or at least me, anyway) to burn your masks and drop your armor no matter how tightly you have it fastened.
You become your authentic self—sometimes awesome, sometimes awful.
And so for the longest time I thought maybe I was just pulling the wool over everyone's eyes like I did for much of my life because I'd stare at myself in the mirror—at the mom who's scrambling to get out the door for school on time and sighing heavily at the craft table that I just cleaned off, and yelling more than I should admit—and I'd think, "Who are they looking at?"
But then I realized that all these people, the ones who praise me for my amazing ability to juggle four kids, have one thing in common:
They all have one kid, maybe two. And the idea of four kids sounds ridiculous.
I have no choice to be bothered by the small, insignificant things.
And I get it. I ran a 5K and could never imagine running a 10K. Then I could never imagine running a half-marathon, and then I did it four times. Mind you it was never easy. Or like, SUPER DUPER AWESOME FUN TIMES YAY! But it was something I had imagined being completely impossible and then, well, I did it.
Over and over again.
And funny, the same goes for kids, actually.
I am "relaxed" or as I think of it, "ridiculous," because I have to be. I have no choice to be bothered by the small, insignificant things, which on many days is matching clothes or nap schedules or all the things that I suppose some parents get wrapped up in.
I might be the first to admit that having a large family is scary. It's exhausting and time-consuming and all-encumbering, and, sometimes, like when I'm on the plane with all four children wide awake and arguing about who has the coolest socks, I want to hide.
Not for long, mind you, but just long enough so I can catch my breath, swallow my pride once again because I AM PARENT: I EAT MY PRIDE FOR EVERY MEAL, and remember the big picture: a house full of beautiful, healthy and happy children.
Sometimes it's hard to see when you feel like you're drowning in chaos, but it's there. I'm beginning to learn that one mom's relaxed is another mom's ridiculous. And there's nothing wrong with either.