Growing up, I was always really concerned with following the rules. I wanted to do all the right things, and if possible, get some applause or at least maybe a gold star sticker.
That works fine as long as everyone agrees on what the rules are, and they’re things like “follow instructions” and “finish your work.” Done and done, gold sticker please.
But most of the time the rules are more mysterious, and it’s unclear who’s in charge of the stickers. And it gets worse if you have kids. I would like a handy checklist, and instead parenting is loaded with all these weird expectations.
There are expectations about the hand-knit sweaters your baby will wear and about the organic vegetables your baby will eat.
There are expectations about meltdowns in public, and how your kids won’t have any.
There are expectations that you won’t run out of clean clothes every third day or so, and that you won’t run out of diapers. Like, ever.
For awhile I thought if I just tried harder, I could hit enough of the expectations to make those gold stars appear.
BUT NO. You meet the vegetable expectation, and the laundry one starts nagging at you. And then the “enrolling your kids in enriching activities” one. And then the “everyone sleeps regularly” one. Expectations multiply like fruit flies, or dust.
There’s the expectation that you have a “meal plan” and actually know how to “cook” the meals you “plan.”
There’s the expectation that you’ll keep your life—I mean your house—no really I mean your life—organized and antibacterial.
There’s the expectation that you cart around a diaper bag stocked with enough food and clothing and wipes and toys and blankets to survive a three-day blackout.
At some point, sitting on the unswept kitchen floor in my
pajama yoga pants, letting my toddler feed me smashed-up crackers out of her sweet, grimy little hand, I realized something.
Those expectations don’t have anything to do with who I was made to be and what I was made to do.
I’ll be okay without the gold stars.
Those expectations are not about love. They’re not about grace. They’re not about connection. They’re not about truth or beauty or authenticity or even about reality.
And you know what? We don’t have to listen to them any more.
Life is not a board game. Families are all different. The rules are made up and the points don’t matter. (Such a bummer.)
We each get to follow our own path.
There’s a scripture that says: for freedom you have been set free.
For freedom. Not you have been set free so you can follow someone else’s rules. Not you have been set free to try to measure up. Not even you have been set free to amass a really big sticker collection.
Freedom from judgment. Freedom from caring what everybody else is thinking and saying and doing.
Freedom to be yourself—the self you were made to be, the self that no one else can be.
Freedom to do your own thing—the things you were meant to do, that no one else can do.
I was made to be me, on purpose. You were made to be you, on purpose. Your history, your personality, your passions and interests and experiences and skills and talents and preferences: on purpose.
There are things you were made to do, and things you are meant to do. (And there’s a whole bunch of other stuff you don’t have to do at all.)
Your life doesn’t have to look like anyone else’s.
It just has to look like you. And mine just has to look like me.
That will be enough, and that will do.