Holy mother of CheezWhiz. We made it.
I think—no, I know—if my kids and I had one additional day of summertime togetherness, we would be minus one family member. At least. With one more day of vacation, we might have resorted to an all-out brawl, and we would have taken out every last one of us. A fight to the death. No one comes out alive.
Thankfully, it didn’t come to that. Blessedly, my friends, school is in session.
I can’t even. I mean, I love my kids. I really, really do. But eleven weeks is too much time to spend 24/7 with even the loveliest of cherubs. And y’all. I do not parent cherubs. If you had asked me two weeks ago, I would have a long list of adjectives to describe my darlings, and “cherubic” would not be one of them. Not even top fifty. Maybe top 100…but that’s optimistic at best for the end of August.
I’m guessing you might relate? Or perhaps I am the only mom whose teenager, preteen, and pre-preteen are FRIGGIN’ EXPERTS in every possible topic of conversation, and their number one goal in life is to TAKE DOWN their siblings with their domination of accuracy.
And I suppose I am the only mom whose kids disobey the rules they don’t particularly like, because MOOOOMMMMM and rolling the eyes. And whose kids are completely blind when it comes to the trail of crap they leave in every blessed room of the house, and deaf when it comes to hearing instructions to CLEAN UP YOUR MESS, FOR THE LOVE OF PETE. And who will do it in a minute or after this show or later because obviously I am an idiot who likes to be ignored when I repeat myself fifty-seven times.
No? Just me?
When my ears and head ached from All The Bickering And Crap, I reached into my back pocket and played my ace. Three words, my friends:
Harry. Potter. Marathon.
No one talks to me or to each other. No one argues. No one physically touches another human being. No one makes a mess. We just sit in a dark, quiet room and watch eighteen hours of glorious, magical greatness. Theoretically.
(We didn’t quite make it through all eighteen hours. More like ten and a half. But still.)
You would think flying broomsticks and spells and enchantments and witty, brilliant storytelling would put a nice, cozy damper on sibling rivalry and uncivil disobedience and mess making.
You would be wrong. So very wrong.
So I had to pull out the big guns. Or rather, the big bucket of soapy vinegar water, along with a few washrags. That’s right, my pretty little flying monkeys: you fight, you clean. You play nice? You get a break. You keep fighting? You keep cleaning. I have a long list.
Y’all. I ran out of things for them to clean. I’m not even kidding.
The day before The Day of Greatness And Celebration, when we were nearing the end of Please Go Away Or I Will Take You Down, I retreated to the backyard to break Pool Rule #1: No one swims alone. But sometimes, you break the rules to avoid breaking necks.
I laid facedown on a raft, arms over my head, listening to the peaceful water flowing freely, the chirp of the birds, the whisper of the wind, and for one moment, I took a deep breath and relaxed. No sounds of bickering children, no yelling, no sulking, no whining. Just me and the peaceful nature sounds…and a little tickle on my right arm.
I looked up. A very large rodent was swimming in my pool. Next to me. And across my arm.
The words that emerged from my lips I will leave to your imagination. But it involved some PG-13 version of
I am choosing to believe that my new friend was an exceptionally well-fed mouse and not a rat because mice are cute and eat leaves and grass and berries, whereas rats are ugly and mean and eat garbage.
I jumped off my raft, out of the pool, and scooped up the mouse with the pool net, then dumped him over the iron fence. I’ve never seen a mouse run so fast. Scurry home, little friend. Return to your family. And stay out of my friggin’ pool.
Oh happy day when the teachers took my kids away. Bless you, teachers. Bless your blessed names. Bless your seven hour school days. Tag, you’re it. Bless you. Good luck.
The first week, I sat in my newly de-noised, de-argumented, de-bickeringed, de-MOOOOOOMMMMed house. By myself. And I smiled. I watched a movie with a friend, sat and drank coffee on my front porch with another friend, read a book, grocery shopped alone…and then I did this:
Feel free to cybernettically high-five me. Or shake your head in dismay. Whatever suits you.
(My very Southern mother is already fretting over what kind of dress I can wear to my now-14 year old daughter’s wedding that will hide it. “Couldn’t you have put it somewhere less conspicuous?” Um. Visibility is kind of the point. Covering up our authentic selves for the sake of social acceptability so we can appear to have it all together? Modernism, you did us no favors.)
Both my mother and mother-in-law (and I imagine other well-seasoned grownups) expressed concern about Michael’s involvement in this entire deal. To clarify:
- He is my equal partner, not my boss.
- OF COURSE he knew. As if I would make this kind of decision without him.
- He was and is completely supportive, and while he has no desire (at the moment) to get a tattoo himself, he celebrates my courage and my self-expression.
- He went with me…and took pictures. And laughed at me. A lot.
To answer the obvious question, eshet chayil means “woman of valor.” It also implies a warrior. I discovered these inspiring Hebrew words last year while reading Rachel Held Evans’ A Year of Biblical Womanhood. (Read it. You can thank me later.)
The words are found in Proverbs 31, which we Christian women have fashioned into a club with which to beat ourselves to a bloody pulp. We’ve turned Proverbs 31 into a damned checklist of everything a good Christian woman must do and be (“she rises before dawn and provides food for her family” <—lost me. I’ll hit snooze; the cereal is in the pantry. Bon appetite.)
We’ve distorted the true purpose of Proverbs 31: a celebration of who we are. It is a song that Jewish men sing over their wives to proclaim their amazingness—their collective amazingness.
I love that so much.
(Jen Hatmaker and RHE give us these words, which sum up the heart of eshet chayil much better than I could. Brilliantly and truthfully genius.)
So several years ago, I got the idea of ringing in my fortieth birthday with something I never, ever thought I’d do. I’ve mulled it over, not knowing which image or word I would have permanently affixed to my person, but knowing when the time was right, it would make itself known. And then it did.
I’ve spent the last forty years being a good girl, a rule-follower, a straight-and-narrow kind of gal. I never deviated, never rebelled. I always endeavored to do the right thing. Again and again and again. And unwittingly, I placed enormous pressure on myself to be All That. To do everything right. To check off the boxes. To be worthy and admirable. To be enough. I ignored the fact that God already sings over me—and you. That we don’t have to worry about what we haven’t accomplished, what is left undone, what we haven’t perfected. That it’s okay to instead celebrate who we already are and what we’ve already accomplished.
So it was time. It was time to step away from Sandra Dee and be a little more Rizzo. A little less country and a little more rock ‘n roll. Less Cool Whip, more Pace Picante. Less Beth Moore, more Jamie the Very Worst Missionary.
It was time to tatt.
(To be fair, I realize getting a tattoo is not NEARLY as subversive as it was several years ago. Tattoos are not only for the sailors and motorcycle thugs anymore. It’s almost socially defiant to NOT be tatted. So my delayed rebellion has lost a little spice, but it still rings significant to me.)
My sisters, God proclaims over us, Eshet Chayil! Woman of valor! Warrior! Look at what she’s done! Isn’t she wonderful?
That’s where I want my heart to rest. That’s my identity, my peace, my contentment. I choose to focus not on what I lack, but who I am.
So, yes. I am grossly impatient and irritable at the end of the summer. My kids make me crazy. But.
I planned an amazing family vacation. Eshet chayil!
I took them to the library. More than once. Eshet chayil!
I drove them to Kingdom Come and back home again. Eshet chayil!
I scooped a
rat mouse out of our pool, and I was not afraid. Eshet chayil!
I bought a gazillion school supplies for my kids and kids who had none. Eshet chayil!
I didn’t throw up, pass out, or run away at the tattoo parlor. (I almost did, but I didn’t.) Eshet chayil!
I ACTUALLY WROTE A BLOG POST!!! Eshet chayil-lalujah.
I was so nervous that day at the tattoo parlor. I was shaking. When I first talked to the artist about what I wanted to do, I lifted my foot to point out the spot on my ankle—and I couldn’t balance on one leg. Crap. What am I doing? Am I making a hasty decision? Is this really what I want to do? Am I doing it for the right reasons? Crapcrapcrapcrap…okay, let’s go. Let’s jump. Here we go…
After he finished, I looked in the mirror. Wow. WOW! I like it. I really like it. It fits me. I am so glad I didn’t wimp out.
Every day, I will remind myself. I won’t forget. My tatt will redirect my thoughts, those voices in my head that want me to believe I am not enough, that I need to do more, that I need to be better. Shut up, my tatt will say. This is a woman of valor. This is a warrior. She will always be enough.
On the days when I lose it. Eshet chayil.
On the days when I forget whatever I was supposed to remember. Eshet chayil.
When Pinterest threatens to whittle my soul into tiny, handpainted, precious pieces. Eshet chayil.
When I can’t stay awake for another second and take a nap before lunch. Eshet chayil.
For the times unkind words slip out of my mouth and I wish I could take them back. Eshet chayil.
Every day. No matter what. Eshet chayil.
Now. If you’ll pardon me, I need to get my eshet together and put these flying monkeys to bed.