Lessons From The Backseat
“I wish we had a different house, Mom”
My son was in the backseat and I was driving. I glanced in the rearview mirror and saw him gazing out the window, looking at the shapes as they flew by. I could read the thoughts on his face and I was trying to gauge where this comment came from. This one little sentence pushed me over my edge. With no further thought, I crumbled. I felt like a failure. ‘He knows we rent’ I thought. ‘He’s been to his friends houses and is able to compare all that we have been unable to provide.’ In the pit of my stomach I felt the remorse settle in. Why has getting ahead always felt like such an uphill battle? Why can’t we just be "real" adults and figure out life? Why does letting down your child feel so excruciating?
I swallowed a lump of pride and asked ‘Why do you say that, hun?’
“Because.” He said shyly. I could tell he had opened up a conversation that he regretted engaging.
I reassured him it was OK, he could tell me. I wouldn’t be angry.
“Well…” He paused. I held my breath in anticipation.
“It’s just, well, I really wish we had shiny floors so that I could slide on them with my socks.”
Umm, what? I started laughing, more with relief than anything. ‘That would be so fun!’ I agreed. I told him that someday I would make sure we had shiny floors and big, fuzzy socks so that we could have sliding competitions.
“There’s one more thing, Mom.” He continued, “I really don’t like our sink.”
‘Our sink?’ I questioned. ‘Why?!’
“Well, when I go to brush my teeth, there’s toothpaste everywhere and water and it really grosses me out. I feel like it’s never clean enough and I don’t want to lean into it.”
Shiny floors. A cleaner sink.
Friends, this is the mind of a child. Let it sink in. Let their innocence and positivity wash over you; freeing you from the heaviness of parenting guilt. I see you; I know I’m not alone. Between ruminating over past failures, to the pressure of fully embracing the moment, to dreams of ‘upgrading’ their future - we are spinning, spinning, endlessly reaching. It is exhausting. My sweet son taught me such a valuable lesson from the backseat: as long as there is love, there is happiness. It truly is that simple. He doesn’t care if we haven’t bought a house yet or if I haven’t decorated our space in my dream design. His baseline is joy - he has to try to contain it. To him, the world is a place of adventures and the only thing that stands in his way are rough floors and old toothpaste.
As one of my favourite authors, Elizabeth Gilbert, puts it; this is your permission slip. You are hereby given permission to stop being so damn hard on yourself. You are allowed to be happy and feel good right here, right now. Give your shitty, old couch; that one you want to replace, a big ol' cuddle. Proudly serve a mediocre dinner on un-fancy dinner plates. Stop worrying about the best sports/music lessons/craft inspiration/school programs/nutritionally dense foods/creative play. Just settle and let the simple joy come in; it's waiting to make itself at home in your heart.