I love bath time with my son. He’s three months old and thinks I’m awesome. Every splash is hilarious, and every silly face I make is the greatest moment in his life. He makes me feel like the best mommy in the world! Until the moment I went to tickle his little foot with a soapy washcloth — and there it was, like a great blinking “Mommy Fail” sign: TOE JAM!
Lots of it.
How had the Super Mommy he loves allowed such disgustingness to happen to his precious toesies?? And how did that black fuzz get there in the first place?
Tommy had been snuggled up in white and blue footie pajamas since his last bath, and I had definitely scrubbed between the cracks last time. I remember because he giggled with that adorable little coo. I even dried between each toe and took special care to massage baby lotion over each foot.
How could dirt find its way to those tiny little pockets on my baby boy? As that question floated around my mind, it began to strike me how grime had crept up in other areas of my life.
Lately I have fostered anxiety-flavored toe jam in every fiber of my being. Stress levels are already high with a newborn and two little ladies, who are better described as pre-tweens with the way they’ve been acting! Throw in 30 or so baby pounds to shed and a big move to an unfamiliar part of the country, and I have all kinds of cracks in my positivity shell for dirt to sneak through and attack my inner Super Mommy.
We all do.
No one is exempt from the junk in life that causes stress and poops on our happy parade. Our issues come in different shapes and sizes, but we all carry a heavy load. The weight of stress can bear down on us in a million ways and our attitude is generally the first under siege. Fortunately we also have a great defense!
They say attitude is everything, and I think “they” are right for once. Just like I found the gunk on my boy and washed it away, I think I can give my attitude a little scrubbing each day. I was able to start unburdening myself of the build-up once I acknowledged the negativity I allowed to burrow in and assault my mindset. I desperately needed to start cleansing my attitude because as many military moms know, we frequently set the tone in our house and family.
When I run out of patience or am especially stressed, I notice a direct and immediate shift in the entire atmosphere at home. The girls start snapping at each other, my husband’s usual calm and patient manner turns tense –- even that darn cat will attack my leg as I walk past. Grrr. On the flip side, I also have noticed how infectious my upbeat and optimistic presence can be with my little people and husband.
The honor of being as integral to my family’s climate as the air conditioner comes with the great responsibility of making sure my temperature is set on “AWESOME” as often as possible — especially during big changes unique to this crazy military life. Our family needs a positive and strong foundation for the many challenges we face together including annual moves and deployments. I can, and should, be a driving force in setting a tone to nurture that building.
While everyone has different ways of lightening his or her heart and mind, here are my three favorites:
Time to Reflect. I reserve and safeguard a special time for focused reading and reflection every day. I believe there is no time better spent than in gratitude for all the beautiful things we have in our lives. Many people find this through mediation, prayer and yoga. Take that, negativity!
Music. I love good music, and there is no substitute for it in my life. I play it through various forms of technology all day long and sing embarrassingly loud. I am a believer in music speaking directly to our souls and its amazing power to change an attitude faster than anything else.
Exercise. I start my morning before anyone in the house, so I can get at least one hour of uninterrupted time to work off stress … and baby weight. As obnoxious as it is to start my day at 4 a.m., it has become a favorite part of my day. Maybe because it’s the quietest part and doesn’t involve diapers, Shopkins or Pokémon?? Also, the benefits of exercise are immeasurable and unmatched, so even if someone were in denial about having toe jam in her life, she should still find time to take a walk.
Truth: All the soap and exercise in the world will not rid us of dirt or life rearing the ugly side of its head. I believe it’s when we are not tending to the struggles we experience as parents, spouses, and people that we leave ourselves vulnerable to cracks where negativity finds its way into our attitudes and lives.
It takes daily concentrated effort to keep my anxiety at bay and refresh my posture. I will fail and I will never do it right every time. But I also will continue to try my very best and show my children what it looks like to work hard at overcoming life’s challenges in positive ways. That’s the best we can do as parents and imperfect humans, right?
Even though my early morning routine certainly doesn’t guarantee I’ll step into a great day or I won’t be slamming cupboards by dinner, I will continue to find confidence and comfort in knowing I’m putting my best foot forward for myself and my family.
Even if there happens to be a little toe jam.