You may have heard that I was recently named the Idaho Young Mother of the Year. It was an honor and an experience that I will cherish always. However, I want to make one thing clear… The honor didn’t come as a result of flawless parenting, nor did the bestowal of such a title perfect me.
Sometimes as moms we look around and think other moms have it all together. I know I have been guilty of such thoughts. And I know I’ve had feelings of self-doubt wash over me at times. But I’ve been around long enough to know that we all have vulnerabilities. We all have struggles. We all need friendship and support.
Being a mom is a precious gift, but like all worthwhile things, it isn’t easy.
The road is bumpy.
In the spirit of fun and full disclosure, I want to share my bumpy road to Mother of the Year. I’m talking about the trip itself–a trip that will go down in history, or at least in family folklore.
It all started when I received the call congratulating me for my selection. As you can imagine, I was flattered and a little bit nervous. I was also very, very busy. Our weekly schedule includes chauffeuring kids to and from nearly twenty activities. Lately we’ve also been helping our 13-year old son finish up his Eagle Scout project and our 16-year old daughter prepare for the Distinguished Young Women program.
It wasn’t until the day before we were expected at the governor’s office that Mike and I talked about the actual trip. We decided that the best scenario for transporting our family to Boise included me going up that day with the younger children and staying over night. Mike and the teenagers would race up in the morning after the paper route.
Following a nightmarish packing flurry, my younger four loaded into the car.
I hoped we would be able to bum lodging off my sweet cousin, but I didn’t actually speak to her until just as we were leaving the house. It turned out that she was on vacation with her family. So I made a phone call to the Super 8. During our conversation, the hotel representative told me that the best rates were available from booking online. I’m all about the best rates, so I quickly searched for the hotel and booked it on Expedia.
As I was climbing into my car, I got a confirmation email. I opened it and discovered that I had somehow booked a room not that night but three weeks hence, not at Super 8 but at a less glamorous establishment (if you can imagine that). And to top it all off, in bold at the end of the email were the words:
“Absolutely no changes or cancellations!”
I called the hotel and told them my situation. They said I would have to take it up directly with Expedia. By now I was on the road and having my 10-year old look up and dial numbers so that I could beg for mercy. The next woman with whom I spoke was kind and sincerely wanted to help me, but English was not her native tongue and she had no real power to solve my problem.
After waiting on hold for some time, she was able to offer me a suhweet deal: I could pay a fine and change the reservation date so we would have a place to stay that night, but we would have to take a SMOKING ROOM. The alternative was to walk away and lose the money they had already charged my credit card.
Now there is something you have to know about me. When I burn my toast, I don’t throw it away. I butter it and eat it. I’m not going to waste bread just because I left it in the toaster too long. And I’m certainly not going to pay for a hotel room that doesn’t get used–no matter how stinky it is.
I paid the fee, changed the reservations, and thanked her for doing her best on our behalf.
About that time, I realized the car was out of gas. As I exited toward an unknown town, I saw that the ramp leading back onto the freeway was closed for construction. I had to ask around to find my way back on the freeway.
That was not the last time I would be lost on the road to Mother of the Year.
I knew exactly where the hotel I had intended to book was, but the location of this new one was a mystery to me. I had taken some time to stop and type the address into my phone. But being disoriented, I ended up missing the exit, getting off the freeway, getting back on the freeway, missing the exit again, and finally getting on the correct road, all the while searching for the letter Q for the alphabet game we were playing together.
Then my phone declared “destination is on your right.” Walmart was on my right. Lowe’s was on my right. But no hotel was on my right.
After looking around some more and stopping to say a prayer, we discovered a tiny sign indicating that the hotel was behind the store. It was sandwiched snugly between Walmart and the freeway and boy was it a shady looking establishment.
I locked the doors and left my car and kids in plain view as I entered the lobby to check in. The attendant was weary, but kind. I confided in her about all the crazy things I’d experienced and about being sentenced to a smoking room. She indicated that most folks who stayed there would prefer a smoking room. She, herself, was a smoker. She saw no harm in transferring us to a non-smoking room and I thanked her profusely.
We carried our things up to our room and got ready for bed. None of us had eaten since lunchtime, but I didn’t want to be lost again, so we stayed put. No one complained. There was a television to distract my sweet kiddos and lull them off to sleep.
At 4:00 a.m. their hungry tummies and the loud freeway traffic conspired, leaving the kids wide awake. In two hours the continental breakfast would be served. My kiddos used the interim to jump from bed to bed while watching cartoons. They were in heaven!
Finally, we headed down to the breakfast room where we met a bounty hunter from New York who said she was prepared to shoot “her man” later that morning. Responding to the concern on our faces, she said, “Don’t worry. I won’t kill him. I’m just unna wing him in the leg.”
My 5-year old suddenly declared his need to use the potty. He refused the nearest restroom because it was “skeery,” so we skedaddled upstairs to our room where he wet his pants on the bathroom floor. I looked for some clean underpants only to discover that the Mother of the Year had failed to pack them.
We loaded up in the car and drove around to the Walmart. The kids were thrilled by the purchase of new Avenger underpants–what an amazing day this was shaping up to be!
About that time, Mike called to let me know that they had been two papers short on the route that morning. They were on the road and had patchy cell service so I spent twenty minutes on my phone sorting out that mess.
Then I noticed my phone, which been plugged in all night to an apparently defunct charger, was dead. I needed that phone for more reasons than one. I said a silent prayer an had a thought to ask at the front desk. The same woman from the previous night had begun another shift of work. She had an iPhone and was willing to charge my phone for me.
We never did get back to eat our breakfast that morning. Instead, we were in a mad rush to be ready for the ceremony.
The kids bathed and I did their hair. When they got dressed, I realized that the outfit my eight-year old brought included a pair of leggings with a huge hole in the knee. So we packed up our things, picked up my phone, checked out of the hotel and drove back around to Walmart to purchase some fancy new leggings.
Then on to the capital we hurried. Bumpity-bumpity-BUMP!
After so much work and worry, everything seemed to come together. I almost felt like I could handle my life, largely due to the fact that Mike and I were working as a team again. The kids looked great and were on their best behavior.
Mike and the kids stood in the back beaming with pride while I accepted an honor for which they were very much responsible. It was one of those mountain-top moments when the hiking seems to pay off. (I won’t even mention that later my 5-year old nearly knocked over some artwork on display in the capital rotunda nor the fact that I almost lost it at the reception when my hungry children descended upon the food like vultures.)
From an outsiders perspective, it may have looked like I am a mom who has it all together. And maybe I do–the important stuff anyway. I have a husband and eight kids who I love. I would do anything for their happiness. Even though the road is bumpy and even though I make daily mistakes, I get up each new morning and try again.
I guess Mother of the Year suits me. And chances are, it suits you too!