I sat at the kitchen table with a blue plastic bowl full of applesauce, spoon-feeding my son, Josiah. My three-year-old twins ran laps around the house, and for a few moments I savored the fact that they were playing well together. No fighting, no tantrums, no tears. I overheard whispers about superheroes, and I knew what was coming. They stomped upstairs to retrieve their blankets and within a minute stood next to me asking for help tying on capes.
I set down the baby spoon and knotted the corners of the blankets around their shoulders. Off they went shouting, “We’re superheroes!” I smiled—until I saw them carrying a third, larger blanket.
“Mommy! Be a superhero with us!”
Let me confess something: I am not good at playfulness. Silliness for the sake of it seems so unproductive. I need to plan dinner. Change diapers. Write that essay. Answer an email. Basically, I’m a maternal Scrooge.
Fortunately, my kids’ pleas got the best of me. I tied that blue and green quilt around my neck and chased them from the kitchen to the living room, then through the dining room. They laughed hysterically, as did their baby brother who didn’t seem to mind taking a break from eating to witness this hilarious spectacle.
After a few laps around the house, I heard the garage door open. As husband pulled his car into the driveway, my body froze. No part of me wanted him to know the ridiculousness I just exhibited. I grabbed the baby’s spoon and started feeding him again, the debate about whether or not to take the cape off swirling around in my head.
Why did I care if my husband saw me being silly? Why did I feel like I needed to protect my identity as productive, orderly, calm? Why was I embarrassed?
I heard a speaker once say, “When we know who we are, when we know we’re loved, we can play ... It’s hard to play when you have to protect your identity.” I struggle to play because I feel the need to wear layers of armor to protect who I think I need to be. I can’t be silly, because I need to be organized. I can’t be spontaneous, because I need to be on a schedule. I can’t laugh, because there are more important things to do. Don’t I sound like so much fun to be around?
The freedom to play disappears when criticism overpowers my identity, when a voice constantly tells me whatever I’m doing isn’t good enough. As I continue to write and cook and create and mother, criticism is inevitable. I can’t stay immune for very long, especially because my harshest critic lives in my own head. It constantly attacks who I am as a wife, mother, writer, and child of God. So often, instead of going to battle against the critic, I stand at the sidelines heaving emotional armor onto my shoulders in an attempt to protect my identity. But there’s only so much armor I can carry.
Maybe you excel at playing. Maybe you haven’t lost your carefree spirit, and the kid inside you still dresses up as a superhero. Or maybe you’re like me and responsibilities, calendars, decision, budgets, and parenting keep you fighting for order and quiet and calm. None of those things are bad. But maybe every once in a while, we need to take the armor off and put the cape back on.
My husband opened the door to the kitchen. As soon as he noticed me, his eyes squinted in confusion. I’m sure he wondered if he was seeing a mirage. My kids, still dressed in capes, ran up to him in excitement. His confusion quickly turned to delight as he pieced together the scene.
I sheepishly smiled. I had resisted the urge to remove my cape and was sitting next to the high chair, just an everyday superhero feeding applesauce to a baby.
Elderflower, Lemon + Rosemary Cocktail
Yields 1 drink
2 ounces vodka
1 ½ ounces elderflower liqueur
½ ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 dashes orange bitters
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
Add the vodka, elderflower liqueur, lemon juice, bitters, and 1 sprig of rosemary to a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake vigorously for at least 15 seconds.
Strain into a cocktail glass filled with ice (or even better, use a large cocktail ice cube). Add the second sprig of rosemary to the glass. Enjoy!
Words and photos by Sarah Hauser.