We are pleased to bring you another UP CLOSE motherhood submission by Sandra Reddish. Sandy was raised in southeastern Idaho in the middle of a wheat field near the small town of Ririe, longing to escape to another part of the planet. She divides her crazy life between being a wife, mother of three wild children, and as a part-time Speech-Language Pathologist. She confesses to being a total bookworm, chocolate addict, and an old movie buff who loves to cook. Her goals in life are to swim in the ocean, be a full-time stay at home Mom, and read every Victorian novel written. She resides with her young family in Idaho Falls, Idaho, and dreams of building a home in another wheat field, next to the house she grew up in.
This final destruction was the last straw. It had begun with the hand-covered hatboxes on the dresser, hatboxes that perfectly coordinated with the décor, that were ripped open like presents. The two-dozen pink Gerber daisies thrown down the stairs and used as light sabers were in sad shape–one was even lucky enough to have received a haircut. I stared in horror at the white and pink bedspread now splotched with bright red nail polish, which trailed along the wall, the molding, the closet doors (she didn’t miss the knobs). “What were you thinking?” I screamed at her in horror as I looked around the room.
“I just wanted to make it pretty,” she said, as the tears ran down her cheeks.
“Well this is NOT PRETTY!” After she collapsed in a puddle of tears on her pillow, I raged at her for a few more minutes before leaving her room.
I had spent hours on the weekends and evenings finishing her bedroom: a beautiful bedspread embroidered with flowers; a gorgeous daybed I had painted an antiqued brown copper; a dresser, bench, and small kitchenette I had sanded and painted to match as well. Handmade flowers and butterfly accents graced the walls that coordinated perfectly with the bedspread and the antique copper brown. It was gorgeous, the kind of room my family couldn’t afford until I was a sophomore with only three more years at home. “She is only three years old,” I remembered, as the tears fell on my cheeks. Yet I expected my daughter to treat her room like a display in a museum. “Don’t touch that. ”Leave the flowers alone.” “That’s not a toy.” The nagging voice of the decorator came back to haunt me.
There is a not-so-nice part of me that is obsessive about creating beauty and order in my home. I am working overtime to compete with Martha Stewart. Martha has an entire corporation dedicated solely to creating magic in living spaces that are without the life and the chaos of real living. I am trying to compete with an impossible illusion to make Heaven in the home of five humans, who feel like they are in boot camp.
This preoccupation insists my children need things I didn’t grow up with or they cannot be happy. They need clothes that are always clean, neatly matching and in style, bedrooms that coordinate perfectly from top to bottom and that are spotlessly organized. I spend hours designing rooms, painting frames and decorations, dreaming about curtains, hunting for the perfect touch. We need our home to look beautiful, so we can be happy, I tell myself.
But I seem to forget that these spaces are made for living, not just looking. I lose the balance of teaching and nurturing children to be clean and orderly and to do things for themselves in my quest for perfection. I am a drill sergeant about clutter, how beds are made, and where clothes are put. “Get that expensive bedspread off the floor now, and make this bed WITH the sheets!” I demand as I inspect the bed of Andrew, my eight-year-old son. One would think the national security of our country depended on the condition of an eight-year-old child’s bed from the way I am handling it. Finding clothing smashed in the incorrect drawers and clean clothes dropped in the dirty laundry hamper borders on treason, apparently, as I hound my children about putting things away properly.
When did Martha move in and Mommy move out? I begin to wonder. I come to the realization that my family didn’t apply to live on the set of HGTV. I begin to see what they really want and need is me, their Mom. Me–such a novel thought. They don’t want a mother who is always cleaning, multi-tasking, coordinating, or decorating. What they need is a mom who will be there, who will go out to look for dandelions instead of perfectly folding the laundry. They want a mom who wants to feel the rain and splash in the puddles, who will finish those amazing drapes later. They need a mom who can laugh with them, cry with them, and kiss the boo-boos. They want a mom who lets little fingers cut the cookie dough and who ignores the flour on her nose, at least long enough to make some memories and really live. Yes, they didn’t ask for Martha, they asked for Mommy. So I think I will try to find my life again, because Martha has enough on her own plate.