Tuesday, August 14, 2007

The Happiest Place on Earth?

There are those moments when I pass myself in a store window or a mirrored wall and I am puzzled by the reflection I catch from the corner of my eye.

Is that really me? When did my arms get that squishy? Where did those spots on my face come from? Do I always look this tired?

It almost always serves as a catalyst for some serious dieting or a deep depression. Rarely do I find myself “surprised” by something good; an improvement in my appearance that somehow I overlooked. Hmmm…when did my butt suddenly shrink and get so damn tight!? Wow…nice rack! Where did those come from? The positive aspects of my physical appearance are more often than not hard won with dedicated perseverance, meticulous care and the latest camouflaging make up…a little difficult to have them sneak up on me.

On the other hand, when it comes to my inner life…my emotions, attitudes and values…I usually stumble upon positive changes as if they were part of a Holy Spirit stealth mission. I don’t realize I was shifting, adjusting, amending until either someone brings it to my attention or I’m faced with a familiar situation that I notice I’m responding to in a whole new way. Many times I didn’t even realize I needed an adjustment in the first place.

I suppose this is a God-ordained pride impediment. It is very clear to me that any positive changes have been driven by my soul redeemer and not due to any effort on my part.

I had a moment like this a couple weeks ago when we took our kids to Disneyland. Now, we’ve taken the older three to Disneyland before. In fact, I think we have been at least one time while each one was stroller-bound. Let me just say for the record, that I really did try to enjoy those visits. I wanted the kids to have fun and enjoy the adventures in the happiest place on earth and, perhaps more importantly, get some priceless photos of the event that could be scrapbooked into some award winning layouts.

The problem was that I wanted to have fun too and “fun” to me, was still riding the rides. And when I say “rides”, I’m not talking about Dumbo or Peter Pan…I’m talking about the good rides…the ones you can’t force a toddler, preschooler OR spirited grade-schooler onto…like Space Mountain, Thunder Mountain or the lean-against-the-guy-you-want-to-kiss-ride, the Matterhorn. So, while I pasted on a smile each time the kids wanted to go through Small World again, I was cringing on the inside and to make matter’s worse, sighing on the outside. You know the sigh I’m talking about…the “ugh” sigh you let out when you’re frustrated with faking a good attitude but if anyone really confronts you on your duplicitous behavior, you can say you were just relishing the moment. Yeah…those sighs.

Needless to say, I did not end up relishing those visits to Disneyland. Instead I became resentful that I wasn’t doing any of the things I wanted to do and guilty that I even wanted to do them instead of be the kind of mom who savors the moment simply because her children are delighted.

This year I sat myself down and gave myself a stern talking to. This time, Miss Melissa, you will suck it up. You have all four of your kids at Disneyland, each excited about different things and it IS all about them. It is not about you. Pull your head out and, dammit, enjoy your children!

Sometime that afternoon, as I was counting down my second hour of standing in 90° heat for the new Nemo submarine ride, I realized something profound. I wasn’t bitter! I was hot, tired, sore and having a wonderful time. I almost felt like waiting in the Nemo submarine line was my gift (in a very non-martyrdom sort of way) to my girls and I was thrilled to watch the wonder alight on their faces as they peered through the portholes of our sub. Sure, I still wanted to wander through the gift shops but I was perfectly content doing that on the way out with my sleeping beauty all bundled down in the stroller. And I still wanted to ride Space Mountain but my joy came from sitting beside my 13 year old as he conquered his fear of roller coasters.

How did this happen? I certainly didn’t do anything. I went into Disneyland completely expecting to still want all the things I had always wanted from a Disneyland trip and to not get them. I just figured I would be a guilt-ridden martyr…again.

Surprise. I guess grace stepped in once again.

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