I recently accompanied a small group of friends and family into an escape room, it was quite an event. The escape room was a blast, we made it out with moments to spare and I felt comforted in the laughter of friends and family around me. I began reflecting on my role as a mom, as I always do, and I realized that being in an escape room is not much different than being a parent. Just go with me here, I think you might get a few laughs from it if nothing else.
Here I was, locked in a room with my parents and my husband, along with a few friends and we were lead into that room by people who acted like it was just another ordinary day for them (just like those nurses and doctors who act like what you are about to go through aka delivering a baby is just another day at the office for them). We are strapped to the wall…literally…ladies, if you have delivered in a hospital maybe you know what I am getting at here and we were told that everything we needed was within arms reach. Okay so here we are, eight adults and we are given a challenge which none of us have gone through before and we know it will be okay, and we also know that we have one another to lean on and that we will work together. Just like in parenting, there are clues all around you, there are clues literally staring you in the face and some of them you are like “yeah, that is a clue, and was really easy and I get it” and some clues you just don’t understand how anyone could ever think that item or phrase or code or process makes sense at all!
In the end we came out victorious, and we did have to ask for help a few times and I know that drove my husband crazy, asking for help, admitting you can’t do it on your own, god that is frustrating and defeating and sounds just like …..parenting. Now, the people running this escape room told us this was the hardest challenge of their facility and told us that most people ask for help. We knew the odds were stacked against us and we knew that the goal, which was getting out of the room, was going to be easier if we just asked for help to guide us. Not that we did not want to be challenged or work to do it on our own but we understood that we could either suffer and ask for nothing or flourish and ask for hints. The sheer comparability of this experience with parenting was incredible to me.
We are told that parenting will be hard and challenging and we all know going in that there are people around us, watching us, who want to help and who are there for the sole purpose of helping and yet, especially us mothers, we seem to push through and choose the road that causes so much stress and anxiety because the feeling of failure in asking for help is crippling. Now if I were in a more philosophical mood I would talk about the cultural impact of this result and how our society puts pressures on us that result in this kind of outcome but alas, I am not in a philosophical mood so I will leave it at that.
What I will say though and perhaps it is obvious by now or maybe it will catch you off guard as it did me when I first thought of it. Let’s pretend that there is no-one to let you out of that escape room, there is no magic “they” listening or watching who can let you escape at any point. When we are parenting we know that the result is these children will become adults and we know that they will all eat their meals and tie their shoes, brush their teeth and comb their hair. If nothing else, the social pressure will catch up to them and they will do it out of an obligation they feel from their peers. So logically we all know that the efforts we put in of repeating ourselves, sculpting their routine and pressuring their rhythm will all eventually smooth out when they hit puberty…or their 30’s, but that is not why we do it. We don’t do it because we fear it won’t happen, we do it because those small moments are building blocks. We are shaping tiny humans into adults and it is not about being able to tie their shoes and have minty fresh breath, it is not about having clean underwear and being able to see their bedroom floor though all the clutter. It is knowing that we are sending them into their lives, their own escape rooms and if we do not teach them how to navigate, look for tools and understand when and where to ask for help, we are placing them in a room without the tools to get out.
For some that room might be our minds, and the need to understand how to escape from our own throughs might be lifesaving. For others that room might be a relationship, intimate or otherwise that needs tools to navigate. For some it might be a living situation, an academic setting or a real threat. Whatever it is, we right now as parents are in our own parenting escape rooms and it is true, everything we need is within reach and we will walk through the door at the end and watch our children grow up and who they are will be in part dedicated to the clues we found, the tools we used and the processes we went through. So ask for help, share your laughter, your frustration and your experiences with all those around you because you as a parent are both the teacher and the student and the more you share, the more others know and the more we know collectively, the better prepared we are for whatever comes next.
Music, a thing that brings joy to all of us, young or old, no matter what emotion, there is a song or a melody that carries each one of us. Perhaps some of us sing along to Broadway musicals while others of us need the soothing tunes of heavy metal but whatever your tune, when you hear it, there is a comfort in its familiarity and in the space it takes up in each of us. As a mother, I often feel like the orchestrator of a large musical ensemble and while the sound I produce is enriching and beautiful it can also feel overwhelming.
Everything in life has a rhythm and a speed to it and sometimes parenting can feel like being a conductor. Some times being a mother can feel like holding up the entire show with the knowledge that if you stop or sit down or take a break to pee or even sneeze, the entire orchestra might fall apart and your beautiful life song might either come to a screeching halt or become a chaotic parody of the song you have been trying so hard to write. Now I know I get off topic quite often and I know metaphors can be a bit …long but I sometimes find these little comparisons help me to remember that life is just a song, it has high notes and low notes and sometimes there are awkward long pauses but the truth is that even when the chaos begins, we know it will end and we know our sweet song will eventually find its way back to us.
I have come to appreciate the silence in my own musical ensemble, which is something I never appreciated before. Silence used to be a void that needed to be filled and now the silence, the break in the music, is just as beautiful as the music itself and can sometimes feel just as rich and textured. Motherhood and parenting is so textured with layers upon layers of emotion, feelings, improv and troubleshooting. In some ways it feels like from the moment you become a mother the world begins throwing curveballs at you from 360 degrees and 24 hours a day. Perhaps not in a steady stream but there is no longer a time or a place where chaos cannot consume you at any moment.
Remember the days when laying poolside to work on your perfect tan was the days only work so that the outfit you have perfectly laid out in your room will look as good as it can on your sun kissed skin and the new heels (HA!) will allow you to dance the night away? Well now a days I am happy if one shoulder gets tan while I sit and wait for my girls to finish their swim lessons and my heels are like old friends which I say hello to when I uncover them from the back of the closet. These times from the past are usually uncovered in my mind when the right song comes on and I can close my eyes and for a moment be there again, with the sun and the pool and my 20 something soundtrack and within a split second I have tiny arms wrapped around my leg and the sweetest song starts playing in my ears “mommy, mommy, happy home, mommy”. To know I am exactly where I want to be, even when the chaos is overwhelming, is the greatest gift of all.
In high school I was asked what song best described my life and I responded “It’s my party and I will cry if I wan’t to” which seems so ultimately naive now that I look back on it. So I want to ask all of you today and now, what song best describes your life? Feel free to respond to me with answers or just keep them for yourself, but whatever it is, play it loud on repeat, put those heals on and start dancing.
Shine A Little (Sun)Light On Your Family’s Health
I am a mother, not a wizard. I share what is hard, what is scary and what is real. The rest I leave to you.