Michelle Massie is a family coach with LSSND's Family Coaching program. Each month on the Coach Michelle blog, Michelle shares insights and reflections on her experiences as a mom, wife and family coach.
Together, to gather, Together.
It was Thanksgiving Day 2002.
I pulled my trusty little bit rusty minivan into my in-law's driveway with a crying one-year-old, a two-year-old that had kicked his boots and socks off, and a dessert that I spent the whole day prior making.
You see, the husband’s whole family was going to be at the dinner table. Maternal Grandparents and all. It was Thanksgiving, and I wanted our family to look thankful, and, well… perfect.
The boys had their matching fall dress sweaters on, I had the cute cardigan that hid my stomach area, (at the time newly pregnant and still had some pregnancy leftovers from the boys). The husband was out doing his morning hunt with the menfolk, and I believed in my heart that it showed what a good, capable wife I was. I could get to Thanksgiving dinner single parenting with a mouthwatering (took my three tries to make) chocolate éclair torte. All looked well.
Until this "perfect mom" attempted to get out of the car and up the foyer steps, carrying two children and juggling a 9x13 pan of goodness. It might have been the morning snow that caused my black heel boots to slip, but either way, as I opened the door, wobbling happened, and something had to give out of my hands so I could catch my balance on the railing and not lose my boys. In slow motion I watched the éclair goodness hit the mudroom carpet, and splatter like the water in a pool after a cannonball.
For the record, looking back I have no idea why I did not make two trips to the doorway or ask for help — possibly because it was part of the efficient perfectness programming that this mom had playing in her head.
I remember my sweet mother-in-law peeking over the steps from upstairs and seeing the pastry mess on the floor with an empathetic smile and a deep belly giggle. I stood there in my now cool whip filled cardigan and cried. Tears spilled down of exhaustion, of attempting to juggle all the expectations of momness that I had placed on my plate that Thanksgiving Day. I can recall my sweet sister-in-law getting a cleaning bucket and coming down the steps to flop the dessert over and put the remains back in the 9x13. Another sister-in-law brought me up a shirt to change into. As I got up from the dessert filled foyer, I heard my mother-in-law on the phone asking my husband to pick up plan B pumpkin pie from the local grocer on his way in.
The dinner happened. The pumpkin pie was perfect, and the “Chocolate Éclair Torte” name was changed to “Michelle’s mistake” and was eaten and enjoyed by some of the kids, carpet fuzzies and all.
Now, 18 years later, I sit here at my work desk and write this: reflecting during the thankful holiday season. I barely recognize that super busy, pretending-to-have-it-all
perfectly together, holding-so-much-expectation-on-herself mom. The kids are grown, and my boys probably would not be caught dead wearing matching fall sweaters. The cardigan hiding my first-trimester belly was holding a sweet, blessed baby girl, who is now a senior at the local high school. The boots were thrown away after the big fall. (I am still thinking there was something wrong with the heel and not how I was trying to juggle all the “things”.) The husband still likes to hunt. This year we give thanks to a six-point muley buck. The in-law kids are grown and have kids of their own. The gentle mother-in-law is in heaven, along with the father-in-law and the grandparents I so desperately wanted to impress.
And yet, still so much remains the same. I still at times put too much on my plate — or too much in my hands — and must prioritize what really matters. I mostly have learned to just take two trips — except when it comes to the Walmart run (I am trying to beat the record of 12 bags up the steps). Life has slowed down. The wanting to have a full, busy life is consciously balanced (most days). I am learning every day to let go of expectations — to show up with this one, wild life, not hiding the belly rolls or the feelings that come with watching things fall to the floor, believing that dedicated family will help you pick it up, flip it over, have a good laugh, and give it a new name.
Maybe that’s what 2020 has done to us all, eh friends? Maybe it's been a time to look at what is on our plate or all that we carry. Maybe we're being asked to turn around and make another trip, or better yet, ask someone to grab a dessert or a kid to help you carry your prized possessions safely in the door. Maybe there have been times this last year that we've been at our knees, wondering about all the mistakes or lessons or whatever you call them, and promising ourselves that we will be different. Maybe we're supposed to just let all of ourselves be seen. The days of “impressing” and “covering it all up” are over.
Maybe we're being asked to sit in this entryway, in this foyer of 2020, and surrender to the plan B. Surrender to the store-bought pumpkin pie. Surrender to what we have, today, at this moment.
Maybe it's not about the toddlers matching sweaters, or the whole-day process of making a dessert to show that we have it all together,
Maybe it’s about just, that — together. And maybe we needed this year to remind us of this, when we have had a lot less, together.
And, when the pandemic, and the political views, and the election, have separated us, maybe we are being asked to lean into the mess of it all, together.
This Thanksgiving, on Zoom, at your table, or through a window, love your imperfect family. Remembering what connects us all to each other. In any way you can, be together, to gather, together.
And, maybe remembering that every local store has plan B pumpkin pie stocked yearly.
Gods Blessings to you and yours this holiday season,
With a thankful heart,
Michelle Massie is a family coaching specialist for Lutheran Social Services in Dickinson, ND. She works with families on raising children — birth through adulthood — as they navigate through rough waters.
Michelle ensures families have the right materials at the right time to construct, maintain or repair well-being.
Call 701-223-1510 or fill out the form at lssnd.org/help to get connected with this program.