Bear with me...
I love Project Runway. I love watching people pursue their dreams and have an opportunity to let their creativity run wild, to focus solely on their passion. (When, as adults, do we have a chance to be thrown in neck deep to forget about the rest and just do what we love?) As I was watching Project Runway this season, I started thinking about a common theme through all the seasons of Project Runway, creating that moment. Runway fashion is about that moment when the model turns the corner on the runway and the audience gasps at the design and innovation of the created piece. It isn't about practicality or what went in to the outfit or the budget or any of that; it is that elusive moment of excitement and intrigue over what you are witnessing for that brief period of time. The model walks down the runway, pauses, let's you take it in, and then turns-- vanishes-- poof! She has gone back stage and the moment is gone. You are left thinking about what you saw. You only have your impression, what you remember, nothing in your hands, nothing tangible. How did you feel about it?
Recently Project Runway shows when the judges have the models come down to their judging area after the show, while the contestants wait to hear what was decided and who will go home. One by one the models come before the judges to have the pieces they are wearing inspected. Sometimes a piece that was mediocre on the runway suddenly blossoms in front of the judges eyes-- "Can you believe the amount of work and technique that went into this? It looks so simple and, yet, look! The fine detail..." Sometimes wow pieces are exposed for what they are-- prototypes. It walked down the runway amazing and was beautiful, but under their prying eyes they can see the stitches coming unraveled, seams that weren't finished, details glued on haphazardly right before the show. It was never real-- never a finished piece, just an illusion.
I have been mulling this idea over in my mind. Parenting has been a challenge for me lately. I feel stretched and empty. I feel like I simplify and still I have twelve hundred things to do at one time. I try to go back to the basics, the things I must complete each day and allow the space and time to get those things done yet the children, through no fault of their own, keep finding ways to stretch me. And this is where I tie in Project Runway. I have times where I feel like those designers. They are working with this limited budget to create something in a short time, to get it done, to make it work, to put on a show. The workroom is a mess. Everyone is at their table doing the best that they can, cutting, sewing, dreaming, believing, doubting. "Is this good enough? Is this right? This is what I'm trying to showcase." Last week a designer hovered over his material, doubting if he was ready to commit to the cuts he was about to make. Once he cut the fabric, there was no going back, no changing his mind for a different design; he would be committed to that path. Was he ready to make that choice? As a parent, I relate to those feelings of doubt. That desire to do the best that I can, to make it work. While I do not have a panel of judges watching my parenting and critiquing me, but I do have times where I feel judged, whether I actually am or whether I perceive to be. I relate to taking all of these busy aspects of life and tying them together to make a cohesive look, a finished product, a child that has all of these different elements of myself, my husband, and our life together working inside of him.
Parenting has those moments. The moments where you don't see what's going on backstage or the craziness in the audience-- the cameras, the crew, the people, the noise-- and all you see is the model coming down the runway. Yesterday my husband and I felt like having a movie night. We blew up the air mattress in the family room and snuggled on the couch all day watching Tim Burton movies with the children. We made "mummies" out of hot dogs and crescent rolls. We had popcorn and candy. It was great doing nothing. I wasn't thinking about the laundry that had to be finished before the week started or the sink full of dishes that would need to be done before breakfast the next day. I wasn't thinking about the sour sugar all over our floor or the ketchup stains the baby made on the blankets. We had our moment. It was sublime. Of course it didn't last. The baby got bored and dedicated his time to climbing on the table and knocking over our drinks and popcorn. The older boys started wrestling on the air mattress. My husband fell asleep. I was pinned in a corner of the couch with a baby hitting me with a remote control. We finally pried ourselves off the couch to put an end to the wrestling and finish the dishes, start the laundry, get the boys to clean their toys in the loft. We did pajamas, medicine, dinner, and got the house ready for school and work the next day. The boys ended up having an early bedtime due to meltdowns. Our oldest desperately finished up his Boy Scout project. It was chaos. But when we got in bed that night, my husband and I remembered that moment when we were all on the air mattress watching movies, when our four boys were snuggled up under one blanket, eyes glued to the silly songs, and we had this whole lazy afternoon stretched before us, nowhere to be but here, now.
Lately I feel like I've been focusing on the chaos. Not the good chaos of parenting, but the bad chaos. The meltdowns, the repeated battles, the same old story day in and day out. I have been letting little things get to me in a big way and I have forgotten about the beauty and magic of parenting. How children can get so much joy from a rainy day (even if they throw a massive fit when it is time to go inside). How fun an air mattress is (even if it ends with a bloody lip and a crying baby). How long weekends are (even if it flies by in a whirlwind and you never make it to the trains, the pumpkin patch, the movies, wherever you wanted to take them that weekend). How sweet sick days can be (even if you still have three other children to take care of plus all the house responsibilities you always have to accomplish). I've turned away from the moments and been caught up in what's going on backstage. I feel like that lately I've been trying to make this wow piece-- getting our house on schedule, figuring out how to transition activities without meltdowns, organizing our spaces, working on manners-- but that it is all an illusion because upon closer inspection it is all falling apart. I'm stressed doing it. I'm not taking the time to enjoy the finished product. I'm still thinking about what the garment should look like, what I didn't accomplish, what I intended to do. And parenting is much more about the simple look, the one that upon closer inspection you see those fine details. It may not be a wow piece to anyone else, but you see the effort and you know what went into that moment. When I dropped our 4-year olds off at daycare and they didn't throw a fit-- that was huge for them. When my husband went to work and they trusted that he was coming home that night instead of going underway-- they have been so worried about Daddy leaving again. When the children play quietly in their rooms in the morning instead of running wild-- I have been working so hard with them on that and they are finally getting it. When our oldest packs his lunch each morning for school all by himself, without my help. When one of our boys takes it upon himself to clean his space and tidy up their shared bathroom-- on his own-- because he wants to help. When our boys find a game that includes all of them, even the toddler, and play together upstairs. When our oldest picks a book at school specifically to read to his brothers when he gets home that afternoon, "I really thought they would love this one." These are small but beautiful things. These are the moments of parenting to look at and focus on. Not the times where I dragged them out for an entire day at the doctors office and ended with us all crying in the car on the way home because it was so exhausting. Or the times when strangers felt the need to tell me what a bad job I'm doing. The moments I need to focus on are the ones where I see these small and beautiful blessings in our day to day life, when hard moments become slightly easier moments, or when new skills are developed and eventually perfected. When new interests take root and when family moments happen in the middle of normally busy times of day.
I need to focus on the moments of parenting where it all comes together harmoniously, to reflect on them and the feelings I had during them. I need to stop judging myself so harshly on what went into creating those moments and let them stand on their own, because when it all comes together, even briefly, it is beautiful.