Who knew motherhood had levels, but in case you haven’t heard, I made Varsity this Fall. My kids are now eleven, nine, and eight. By definition, so much in life is designed for “ages eight & up,” therefore all moms who get to this milestone surely deserve to self-promote themselves to Varsity motherhood. There have been so many adventures, mishaps, days I wish I could re-do, and days I wish had never ended since our first baby girl arrived almost twelve years ago.
From time to time. I meet adorable moms-to-be who are inquisitive and want to know where to get the best hand-me-downs, or which pediatrician I like best in our practice. I also encounter the holier-than-thou Freshman crowd, and these moms could especially benefit from a little dose of reality from we veteran moms. They’re the ones who write you off as dated because you used a bumper in your kids’ cribs and insist that your 8 year-old jogger should be taken off the road because it’s a little rusty. Regardless of which group you fit into, know this: becoming a mom automatically enrolls us all into a special sisterhood that binds us together. You can embrace those of us who have traveled your path, or push us away, but the reality is that we are all in this together. We Varsity moms want to love you, guide you, and embrace you when you stumble or fall like those before did for us. We will celebrate success with you, and we applaud your efforts because we know it’s not easy.
As my teammates will attest to, Varsity motherhood is not for the faint of heart. I’ve lived through blow-out diapers that went up the back, through the hair, and even into the ears. I’ve been peed on, stepped on, had my hair pulled, been bit, drooled on, and kicked. I’ve been told it’s all my fault at least 10,000 times, been hugged and kissed 100,000 times, and worried about my kids 1,000,000 times or more. I’ve had toddlers at the door crying as I drove away, preschoolers calling me on the phone to tell me they miss me, and older kids writing me at home from camp telling me they don’t miss me, and can they please go all summer next year? I’ve cleaned both chunky and watery vomit off four of my rugs, I’ve combed lice out of hair, and I’ve taken off about a dozen ticks. I’ve cooked hundreds of meals that were epic failures, as I listened to tiny and desperate voices trying convince me they would most certainly die if they have to eat a dinner that looks like barf. I’ve made a zillion mistakes, and so often felt sure of myself only to realize later that I had not a clue what I was doing.
Getting to this level requires patience, tenacity, and above all, a sense of humor. If I have one message for the Freshman crowd, it’s this: Stop taking yourselves so seriously.
Go crazy grinding up that homemade baby food. A lot of us were once Freshman fools like you, cutting and steaming squash in the kitchen, taking up all the ice trays, all for a week worth of mush. Halfway through the process, the baby is screaming to be nursed, your milk is letting down, but you press onward, determined to be a gold-star mom. Have fun with that. Some of us figured out early on that organic baby food did the trick just fine and was in fact cheaper, while others handed out baby food recipes at moms groups and mashed up so much food that they had leftovers for their 91 year-old grandmothers. Several years from now when your kids break you down in the Devil Dog aisle, it will dawn on you that you can either be that fun mom who introduces them to a classic bit of American junk food or you can go down burning as the lame neighborhood mom who serves fresh celery and carrot sticks when friends come over. It’s your choice, but consider the words of Billy Joel, “The sinners are much more fun.” I’m confident you will evolve into a Varsity gal who won’t disappoint.
You go right ahead and brag about how your preschooler is SUCH a good helper. Are you the chatterbox going on and on at a holiday party about how amazing your three-year old is at putting away the blocks for you at the end of the day? As the church lady used to say, “Well, isn’t that special?” I laugh out loud at my younger self, thinking about some of the blanket statements I made insinuating that my kids were destined to help out at any given opportunity. Before you know it. you’ll be asking one of your children to unload the dishwasher and she will promptly reply, “No. I don’t feel like it. I’ve had a tough day.” This will be followed by another child claiming, “I’m just too tired to help out right now.” Your final child, who is supposed to be setting the table, will protest in a whiny and snide voice, “I’ll only consider doing it if you pay me.” Someday, you’ll be equipped with the Varsity skills to either respond to this mutiny with style and grace or to determine it’s a good time to open up some wine and head for the hills.
Mom-and-me music classes are only the beginning of the singing. Are you often overheard touting the benefits of music for the very young in regards to language development? Do you think it’s cute how the entire family is singing “Circle to the left, old brass wagon” together after dinner? When my kids were little, I thought parents who let their kids listen to inappropriate lyrics must be sub-par individuals. Let me be the first to tell you that the days of gentle lullaby music will soon be a distant memory, and boy, will your kids language develop! Whether you like it or not, the trashy music knows where you live, and will permeate your home in no time. Someday, not long from now, you will be driving your kids to school and in unison, from the back, you will hear a chorus of loud and enthusiastic voices belting out, “My anaconda don’t want none unless you got buns, hun. OH. MY. GOD. LOOK AT HER BUTT.” You’ll be a Varsity mom then, and after you give a brief lecture about some of the words not being very nice, you’ll join in and sing along.
You sound like a brown-noser bragging at Parents’ Night about how your first-born son (who is 6) reads Harry Potter and seems very drawn to academics. How lovely that your son sits nicely on the couch, all polite and academic, reading advanced books while you cook up an elaborate stew with 36 ingredients for dinner. Newsflash: the varsity crowd hears you, and we are rolling our eyes at you. That 6 year-old son of yours is going to turn into a 9 year-old before you can count to 100, or so it will seem. When he does, he will become obsessed with farting at any and all waking moments of his life. He will do fake ones on his arm, real ones on you or on his siblings, or best of all, at his favorite place to rip them: the dinner table. His mission in life will be clear: to entertain you and annoy you whenever possible. You will engage in a mental battle of epic proportions over the fact that he is displaying horrible manners and you will think long and hard about how you can get him to stop. As you move through JV motherhood, you may even Google some websites about how to deal with boys and their unpredictable antics. Alas, he will wear you down with his sweet freckled smile, bright eyes, and chortling laugh. When he has farted so many times in a row during dinner that you feel even yourself cracking up, you’ll be a Varsity mom, and you’ll let the whole team off the hook. You, your husband, and the entire rest of the family will be doubled over with laughter until you all have tears streaming down your face. It will indeed be hilarious, and you’ll know deep down that he is a sweet boy who cares about others and uses his manners, even if never at home.
Varsity motherhood will be here before you know it, and when it’s your turn, I hope the newly indoctrinated Freshman crowd will be leaning on you for help to move the torch along to the next generation. You will be amazed at how good it feels to have them looking up to you, and I promise your journey will feel that much more rewarding. Collectively, we can be so much, laughing all the way of course.
Some of the freshman moms reading this will continue to insist they will never end up living out some of the realities I describe above. Rest assured, ten years from now I’ll be winking at you in my rear view mirror, smiling back at you in a good-humored-sort-of-way. You may even hear me say, “See! I told you so!”