I recently released a novel, which was an enormous personal achievement. But my celebration was short-lived, as I hadn’t anticipated a major consequence of becoming an author:
<Cue dramatic organ music and the Kim K. crying gif>
Hindsight is 20/20: I should have included a disclaimer within the intro that read: “I am perfectly happy being a 4 out of 5 star author; this isn’t Shakespeare territory, people.”
But after the initial shock of others’ critiques wore off, I realized that I have been training for this moment for the past four years. I had unknowingly enlisted a team of professionals to help me develop—and maintain—a thick skin.
Enter my three-year-old twin boys and my four-year-old daughter. Together, their combined talents of unfiltered honesty, lack of empathy and complete disregard for “listening ears” make them a triple threat. They take their roles and responsibilities very seriously.
A few examples of their intense regimen:
Me: Who is prettier? Cinderella or mommy?
<No hesitation. Not even a moment to consider the options. Nay a hint of a pause.>
Miloh: What is this bump?
Me: It’s a pimple.
Me: Because sometimes grown-ups get little boo boos on their skin.
Me: From stress. Or sometimes mommy is too tired to wash her face before bed.
<Eye twitching has commenced at this point; can feel a whole family of imperfections emerging to start a pimple party>
Me: Because I have children.
Touché, my love. Touché.
With the speed of an Olympic sprinter and the skill of a mediocre, children’s birthday party magician, I’ve managed to whip up a meal from bare cupboards in five minutes flat to satisfy my hangry, pruney, chlorine-wafting, sun-kissed darlings. Fruits, veggies, protein? Check. Check. Check. Nailed it! Wait, what’s that? You suddenly don’t like the thing you wolfed down yesterday? And the strawberries are too red? No, I cannot trim the “crust” off the deli turkey…that’s meant to be there. <Serenity now, serenity now.>
All, in impressive harmony: I! WANT! DADDY!
<No explanation needed>
When I lovingly pick up my spawn from sleepover at their grandparents, I’ve missed them so fully; their smell, their bodies in my arms, their quirky thoughts and their smiles. Upon opening my minivan door, I dive bomb them for huggies, inhaling their scents and taking in the beings grown from my womb. Grinning from ear-to-ear, I gaze lovingly into his blue-gray eyes.
Me: Did you miss me?
Joking aside, motherhood comes with all sorts of vulnerabilities. We’re constantly self-evaluating how we’re doing. And guess what: reading the room does not reflect how you’re really doing. (Case in point: As I survey my living room, I see one kid post-meltdown with tale-tell puffy eyes and dried snot, one kid slightly spilling their milk from their constantly-leaking-omg-why-don’t-I-just-throw-that-away sippy cup, and one kid flinging every single book off the shelf in search of the one that we took back to the library a week ago.)
Raising young kids requires a thick skin. Their emotions are all over the place, they’re not good at self-regulation yet, and—especially if you have more than one—it seems like there is always one that is unsatisfied with the status quo. If they wrote a review on Amazon about my “mom-ing” today, I guarantee it wouldn’t mention the effort I’ve put forth toward their education, entertainment, keeping the peace, and ensuring their health and safety. The headline wouldn’t proclaim: “This mom works tirelessly and thanklessly to keep us happy!” I’m pretty sure their critique would involve not getting enough “tweets” (treats, they’re not on Twitter yet…), shows and “hand stories” (side note: do any of your kids insist upon made-up stories ALL. THE. TIME?? I am out of material, people!).
So, no. I will not allow these faceless book reviewers define my self-worth, because only I know the effort I’ve put in to get where I am today. I know I did a good job.
And one day, my little darlings will need help developing their own thick skins. And this mom will happily return the favor.