David doesn’t answer his phone. I immediately text him, as we so rarely call each other, unless it’s urgent.
“Just calling with a question about gas stations,” I text.
To clarify, I wasn’t stranded or in need of help finding a gas station.
Still, David instantly calls back. He knows why I’m calling. I put him on speaker as I help Diego get out of the car. We’re picking Leoneli up from daycare and I balance the phone while holding his hand.
“I was just calling because I couldn’t remember the name of my Second Favorite Gas Station,” I say, adding, “Ah! I just remembered. It’s Arco.”
“Arco? Really?” David says, “But for the longest time they didn’t take credit cards.” Diego and I nod, and walk up to the front door.
“Yeah, but they are usually really cheap,” I say, and hear David agree, and then we say goodbye.
Waiting for the door to open, Diego looks up at me with his sparkle eyes and says, “So Costco is your favorite, but do you also like the one with the red and yellow and the shape?” I smile, tilt my head and think about it.
Does this entire exchange sound completely bonkers? Yes, it does.
Are we really in a multi-person-text-phone-family-analysis about Our Favorite Gas Stations? We are! We’ve actually had this conversation multiple times!
And truly, if I read this, knowing nothing about the people involved, I would certainly wonder about that family. Unless you mentioned one critical fact: they have a kindergartner.
A kindergartner, a child at an age where his brain is exploding with information, curiosity and burgeoning idiosyncrasies. Yesterday, he taught me a song about litter bugs, informed us that he loves chow mein, and paged through a book about Leo Messi with his brother. And for reasons that remain unclear to me, he is fascinated by how we each feel about each gas station company.
Our resident kindergartner and gas station enthusiast
This is how I find myself extolling my adoration for Chevron as we pass a station on the way home.
“But do you love that one, Mama? With the blue and red?” He asks. “Do you love it more than Costco?”
In my mind, I want to say: NO! Diego, I’m about as climate-change paranoid as any geriatric millennial-which means I’m really really worried. Fossil fuels freak me out and did you know Chevron made $36 billion in profits last year? Do you think your dad and I, who sort all our food for compost (despite the fact that it GROSSES me out) and buy clothes second-hand (me), do you think we LOVE gas stations?
But I don’t say this.
Because my kindergartner is in the backseat, eager to know my thoughts, ready to engage. His curiosity is earnest and his desire for connection makes my heart soar.
So, I hold back my laughter as I say, “Hmm, that’s really tough. I like the design a lot, but I still love Costco more. But I do really love Chevron, too!”
Because he’s interested, so I’m interested, too.
And it’s a moment like this—on its face, so absurd, but in the moment, so tender—that reminds me of the beauty of motherhood. The beauty of your child surprising you and you surprising yourself. When else am I completely gobsmacked by both the hilarity and sweetness of a conversation? When else do I just jump into a conversation, full force, even though the topic is um, not my favorite? When else am I carefully thinking about what I say, knowing that I may be saying “I love Chevron!” but what I want him to know is this: if you love something, I love it, if you care about something, tell me about it. I’m here and I want a front seat to everything that matters to you.
Only in motherhood. This completely strange, wonderful, surprising responsibility that leaves me laughing and tired and constantly surprised, each day.
(PS-we recently purchased a car. Our first in 13 years. It is electric. Diego seems to be taking it ok).
Note about this post: My wonderful friends, Erin Strybis and Kim Knowle-Zeller, co-authored a book (!!!) coming out in a few days. I met Erin and Kim through the writing community, Exhale, and we finally met in person, this fall, during our writing retreat. I’ve been fortunate to read draft sections and every chapter always left me feeling calmer and less alone. This is likely because they are excellent writers, but also, the book is absolutely a reflection on who they are as friends: they listen, they reflect, and they encourage. They’ve helped me feel more brave with my writing and inspire me to take notice of motherhood. I wish every new mother could have friends like them, and I imagine their words will help others the way their friendship has helped me.
Here is more info on the book from Erin and Kim-I cannot wait for my copy to arrive:
This post is a part of the blog tour for The Beauty of Motherhood: Grace-Filled Devotions for the Early Years (read two more perspectives from my friends Jessica and Melissa). With scripture, stories, prayers, and practices, The Beauty of Motherhood provides mothers with refreshment and the reminder that they are not alone as they mother. Order your copy at Amazon, Target or Bookshop. The Beauty of Motherhood releases March 21st!