Sunday, May 16, 2010

Why I Hate Norman Rockwell

For the second time in one weekend I found myself in maternal bliss, fawning over my beautiful daughter and being mesmerized by her smile. Not just any smile but a grin so big that it takes up her whole face. She was having a great time. I love those moments. They are the memories that you want to capture in a thousand pictures and the feelings you have that say "this is why I became a mother".

The first time was at the Miami Children's Museum. We took a long ride up to Miami from The Keys of Florida on Friday afternoon. She did beautifully in her car seat in the back. She watched her DVDs, chirped questions to me as I drove and in no time we had made our 3 hour journey. We checked into the hotel and Carli was thrilled to press the buttons on the elevator and see our room. She ran around the hotel room very excited about her "Special New Building House". I told her we were going to the Children's Museum in the morning and that they had big toys that we could play with. She was over the moon. So over the moon that she didn't go to bed until 9:45 PM and woke up at a startling 5:30 AM. I tried to talk her into going back to sleep and gave up at 6. I knew that without enough sleep her mood could go either way. We got to the museum and she was so happy to play in their playground on the swings until it opened. As soon as 10 AM came we scurried in the front door. Paying our fare we started in. She was in heaven and I was snapping pictures as fast as I could and as long as she could sit still. A Norman Rockwell moment, we were playing and talking like we were a harmony in a song. Maternal bliss.

As we were winding down our tour Carli wanted to take pictures in the instant photo booth. I am not sure what happened between paying for the pictures and sitting down but my special little angel turned into a fire breathing meltdown of a dragon. Thankfully her screaming in the booth looked like smiles in the photos and my toothy grin was actually a grimace trying to hold my flailing dragon still during the photo op. I waited impatiently for the photos as she was crying and screaming that they were hers and she wanted them. I gave her half and kept my half which made her shrill so loud you'd have thought I slapped her across the face. I grabbed my little monster by the wrist and told her we were going home. This seemed to jar the tantrum loose but by then I was done. We left 5 minutes later and she cried and whined aside from a brief 45 minute nap in the car, all the way home. I parked my car in front of my landlord sitting on her porch while I practically dragged my over tired, crying, screaming dragon up to the apartment so I could quickly get her bathed and to bed. What a day. How did that Norman Rockwell picture look again?

Today was going to be a good day. It is my late husband's birthday and I wanted to keep things upbeat. Church started earlier than usual for us because I wanted to go to bible study. A new and dear friend was teaching and she had text messaged me about coming. I hurried into the shower with my little buddy close on my heels as usual. I scarcely shower by myself any more. Not that I mind, at least I know where she is and what she is into! I ran some shampoo through her hair, a little soap, shaved my legs and we were off. The class was wonderful, service was great. I picked up a beaming Carli at Sunday school and we went off to the grocery store, which is our favorite errand to do together. Next we planned to make sugar cookies. Carli had been nagging me to make them with her since she keeps seeing this recurring commercial of a little girl making cookies with her mom. Why not? This will be great! Some of my fondest memories of my mom and me are baking in the kitchen. We made pretzels once together with my little brother. It took a while but we had a great time doing it and it seems that baked goods are always better with a little extra love in them from your mom. I ferreted out all the necessary cookie supplies and started off creaming butter and sugar. I was explaining everything as I went. Next was mixing the dry ingredients. I gave Carli the cup of flour and told her to pour it in the bowl. The first cup went great but the second cup went everywhere when I took too long handing her the cup and she jerked it out of my hand. I cleaned it up, handed her another one and decided this would be a great lesson in cooperation and working as a team. That went right by her as by now we were rolling out dough and cutting out cookies when she yelled at me for cutting one without her. I sternly informed her that if she couldn't cooperate, she'd be done helping mom make cookies. Next were the sprinkles. I told her she could put the sprinkles on the cookies. Multi-colored sprinkles like you would put on ice cream. She was very excited to be the "Sprinkle Girl". The first sheet went well. There were more sprinkles on some and not on others but mom quickly fixed that. I can't help it, I have Monk-like OCD sometimes. Everything has to match and be level and symmetrical. I am trying to let that go, but I digress. The second sheet happened so fast I had no time to react. I put the second sheet down in front of the Sprinkle Girl and she took the top of the sprinkles off and dumped them on the first cookie. Sprinkles rained everywhere from the jar. I grabbed the container from her and tried to pick up sprinkles and evenly distribute them to the other cookies, never mind what was on the floor and counter. A terrible thought shot across the bow of my thinking. Without warning the statement "she ruins everything" came to mind. I thought of her lack of cooperation during cookie time and the meltdown and car ride home yesterday. I stopped myself mid-thought. Why would I think that? She doesn't "ruin everything" she is 3 years old, a baby still. She is just doing what people her age do. Then I got to thinking, what was it about her behavior that caused me to think like this? It was my ideal that unfortunately a lot of us try to live up to. These picture-perfect, June Cleaver moments where everything is pristine, wholesome and good. No one acts up, spills anything or has meltdowns because they are over tired. In the Norman Rockwell paintings everyone is exactly the way perfect would be. Lovingly looking at each other, happy. A captured time forever framed in glass in a gallery. Wouldn't life be wonderful it were just like that? A frozen perfect moment on a canvas that everyone could look up to and say "why can't my life be just as it is in this picture?" Because it isn't. Life is full of bumps, crying, and unexpected things. Tired kids, traffic, that appointment you forgot about until just now, that bill you forgot to pay happens to everyone. No one in a Norman Rockwell painting has these problems because one moment is stilled by paint into an ideal for us to admire.

My black -and-white thinking is the bane of my existence. It isn't all bad because one unexpected thing happens. Sometimes it takes an ugly thought to pry open my mind into looking at my own behavior. Carli loved the museum, the hotel and the ride up to Miami. The cookies came out great, she told me they were good and we had a lovely dinner after we baked them. Near-perfect, precious time spent with my daughter and a splash of life thrown in. Just like it is supposed to be. I hate Norman Rockwell.


  1. Great blog Brittany! As a Grandmother I can tell you that there is a time in life when the OCD moves aside. It did take awhile and lots of prayer and effort, but it comes. It came for you in this adventure-your thought process brought it about. So glad to read about your adventures with Carli. Peace in Christ, Erica

  2. Brittany~ I really enjoyed reading your blog. I, too, can relate to the desire for "perfect" in an imperfect world. My kiddos are older now and looking back it is the imperfect "life" moments we remember the most and actually cherish. Those moments can only becoming "cherished" moments if handled correctly when they happen. True love moments...making something beautiful out of a mess with a loving mom attitude. It isn't always easy..but worth it. Afterall, isn't that what God does for us? Makes something wonderful out of our mess? Thank you for your authenticity and is a breath of fresh air. God has blessed me with our new friendship. Robyn :-)