Smile for Me

March 17, 2010 at 3:49 pm | Posted in Lollipop | 15 Comments

Lollipop has a new line.

“Smile for me, Mommy.”

At first, I didn’t give it much thought. In fact, I gave her the eye. Because when was she saying it? When I asked her to please stop chasing the cat. Or spitting out her milk. Or spitting on her brother. For the 32nd time.

And was I going to smile in that situation? Uh-uh. I drink the SuperNanny Kool-Aid, yes, I do. And smiling in the middle of disciplining is a big, fat no-no. Nothing says “I’m not serious” like a goofy grin or a stifled chuckle. Instead: the eye.

The Eyes Have It
Then I began to notice something. Lollipop would sidle up to me at other times. At ordinary moments. Like when I stirred the pasta. Or sorted through the mail. Or pushed her in the swing. And say the same thing: “Smile for me, Mommy.” So I would. A sort-of half-smile that certainly didn’t reach my eyes, or my heart.

Earlier this week, I was coming down the stairs, having just scolded her for trying on 10 pairs of shoes (the star sandals! the sparkly heels! the frog boots!) instead of settling in for her nap. I walked past the big, silver mirror in the dining room. I saw someone. Her eyebrows were furrowed, her lips down-turned, her face pinched. It was me. And I looked tired, worn out, unhappy.

Smile for me, Mommy. In my head I heard those little words. And I knew they meant so much more than I had first assumed.

The Extraordinary Ordinary
Am I so worn down by the day-to-day routine of mothering that I can’t bother with a smile? And what is a smile, really? It’s an outer manifestation of inner contentment, peace, joy. Do I not have that?

This is where I could blame everything on my very pregnant body and my very swollen feet everything. This is where I could say, just give me a few weeks. But in a few weeks? I’ll have a newborn. I’ll be that much more tired. And the routine I know like the back of my hand will be utter chaos as we figure out how to be five, instead of four.

Just give me a few weeks. No, that won’t cut it.

Simple Gifts
As I looked at my reflection last week, I practiced. Smiling. Until my eyes crinkled, my cheeks flushed a little, my heart beat just the tiniest bit faster. It was hard. It felt forced. But I did it. And I resolved to do it more often, to smile just for the sake of smiling. To smile in the ordinary moments, the day-to-day ones that so often seem rote, routine.

Because those are the ones we miss. The ones we didn’t stop to enjoy. The ones we can’t get back.

This I know: I am happy. I have a strong marriage, healthy children, stability, security. I love and am loved in abundance. But how can I show it? How can I feel it? Most important: How can I let my daughter see it?

So that she doesn’t need to say to me anymore, “Smile for me, Mommy.” Because I will be.



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  1. I always said, give me newborn tired over pregnant tired. Pregnant tired is so… oh my… just so much. Newborn tired is exhausting, but in different ways.

    Beautifully written post. A good reminder to smile for real, more often than not 🙂

  2. Many did I need to read this post today. It’s been one of those days when I feel overwhelmed and, to borrow your phrase, “so worn down by the day-to-day routine of mothering.” I know I have plenty to smile about, but feel like I barely have the energy. I’m not looking forward to newborn tired, but it will be a pleasure to be tired without also being huge!

    Keep smiling!

  3. I have been trying really hard lately to have a more “positive attitude.” I know that sounds cliche, but I was getting kind of sick of always feeling, well, kind of miserable. And being miserable with the kids and my husband.

    One thing I read about, and it sounds completely crazy, but I swear it works. In the morning and evening, make yourself laugh for 15 seconds. You don’t have to search out anything funny (which is where you might feel kind of awkward in the beginning.) Just start laughing. Hard. And then you actually DO start laughing, because it’s so ridiculous. It makes me feel better. Every time.

    Good luck with the smiles.

    • My husband loved this idea! He’s holding me to it. (Laugh, laugh.)

  4. What a beautifully written post. Lollipop is truly wise.

    There have been times in my life when a smile actually felt strange and awkward on my face. Being pregnant with little ones around is so hard – I love that you’re focusing on gratitude to get through. Happy smiling!

  5. How do they know how to do this to us? My 3-year-old often says, “Are you happy with me, Mommy? You don’t sound happy?” It’s a heavy load to know they are watching us soooo closely.

  6. This really, really touched me. I could see myself in that mirror, too.

  7. What a caring, loving and lovable little girl Lollipop is – it is amazing how perceptive little children are, even when you are trying to hide how you feel. Last Friday when I thought I was being all brave but was so sad at leaving my daughter at pre-school and she just knew and told me “don’t worry Mommy, we will get you a present later”. The one thing you must not do is feel bad about being a little sad – you will have your smile back soon. If I am feeling down I just try and get out of the house, pack up my daughter and go, even if it’s just a walk at the park getting out for me is great therapy and if the sun is shining then even better!

    Thank you for your lovely comment on my blog post.

  8. Beautiful entry. And it’s easier for me to smile now as I’m still in the wonderment stage of my daughter’s toddlerhood, but I know it will get harder and harder as she discovers new ways to test her limits – and mine. But I will remember this post. And I will smile.

    Thank you for this.

  9. I’m going to second mep’s comment. I really, really needed to read this today. The last few have been rough. So many struggles, so many fights, I know I’m not smiling as much as I should. It’s so hard to stay happy and upbeat when dealing with a whiney, crying, tantrum-throwing toddler. But it’s something I’m working on.

  10. This is really sweet and true Stacia.

    When my son was three and he noticed my frustration at daily life with a 3 yr old and a baby, he would ask “are you happy Mama?” and whatever was bugging me seemed insignificant compared to his concern.

    I also found newborn fatigue easier than 3rd trimester fatigue.


    • Thanks, Rachel. Got my book today and can’t wait to dive in. Bet I’ll do some smiling while I read! =>

  11. Oh, Stacia, I know just how you feel. One year ago, I was also very, very pregnant and, in spite of the obvious blessings of my life, I was finding it hard to “find the happy” in the everyday. Like your Lollipop, my Big Boy was often the one reminding me to smile.

    I loved @justmakingourway’s suggestion about making yourself laugh. I actually just tried it and it seems to work. (It also startled my husband who was sitting next to me at the time…and his reaction made me laugh even more – a chain reaction of laughter!)

    Wishing you some smiles and real rest in the next few weeks. xoxo

  12. This is a beautiful post. I think we all get into that rut sometimes–where everything just feels like so much work. It reveals itself to me when the kids are exploring and doing their creative play, and all I can think about is the mess I’ll have to clean up. Then I have to step back and really think about my life and what I want my experience to be. But it’s so hard to stay on top of that feeling sometimes, when there is just so much to do aaalllll the time and I’m tired. Hang in there, one thing I know is that things go in waves and hopefully soon you’ll be riding high on a whitecap.

  13. I try to pepper my day with calls to my Mom, my sister, my friends, or my husband and they help me laugh. Right now, Adriana fills my day with lots of giggles, but I’m sure when other siblings are thrown into the mix and she is older, those moments might be more scarce. There’s also nothing wrong with a part-time nanny. In fact, I might open a savings now for that day when #2 or #3(?!) comes along. Less tired. More smiling.

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