This past weekend we drove to Nashville, or very, very close to it, anyway.
Tim's roommate from college got married in his sweetheart's picturesque front yard on Saturday in a neighborhood nearby the city. Tim was honored to stand next to him, very handsome in his dapper vest and bow-tie get-up.
We left around 10AM Friday from Dayton in a 2015 white Ford Focus that didn't belong to us. Although we have three cars, all of them were out of commission for a long trip. Something about a broken wheel bearing, two check engine lights, and a 1998 Chevy Pick-Up with more miles than the weeds in my yard motivated us to pay the money for our peace of mind.
Theoretically, Nashville is about 5 hours away, if you are not traveling with a toddler. We arrived at our brilliant Air BNB home around 4:30PM. We had about 15 minutes to look around at the gorgeous lake house we were sharing with six other couples, sweet friends from college. We said hello, "look at the view!" and goodbye and packed our irate one year old back into the car for a 45 minute drive to the wedding's location.
A wiser, more experienced mama probably would've just called it for the day and stayed at the house and ordered a pizza. But that is not what I did. Titus and I tagged along, in my heart wanting desperately to be there for our old friends, to support them as a family. Strung out from a miserable car-ride, Titus was antsy and whiny. Some generous friends took Titus at the rehearsal dinner for a few minutes so Tim and I could eat. They made a game out of the sugar packets that Titus adored. I thought, "Now why didn't I think of that?"
In that millisecond, I wished I was a mom that was more fun, more creative, more easy-going. In hindsight, I realize that exhaustion makes me vulnerable to the ugliest of thoughts. I was just as worn out as Titus.
The next day was delightful for the most part. We spent much of it at the house and we got to catch up with some of our friends. We explored a local gem, The Nashville Jam Company, and met up with a childhood best friend and her family. I tried to play the sugar packet game with Titus again and somehow the sugar packets ended up all over the floor and the mason jar they were in almost shattered when Titus chucked it on the ground. That is when the sugar packet game ended.
While Titus napped, Tim played games with his buddies and I got to primp with my gal pals, before heading back to the Nashville Jam Company for lunch. It was the only restaurant near our lake house so we became quick "regulars." Was it in my head or did the waiters roll their eyes when they saw us tourists return? In my projection, they thought "NOT THE SUGAR PACKET PEOPLE!"
As the story goes, life is not the same post-kids. Since Titus entered our world, we have never taken him to a wedding with us. Although he has been invited, I've just assumed it would be easier on all of us if he stayed home with a sitter. Call me a chicken or call me wise. Even to this trip, the original plan was to leave him along with my parents so we could have a getaway. When our friends invited us to share their Air BNB, all kids included, we couldn't resist bringing him along.
At a wedding, I expect to be able to watch the couple get married, shed a few happy tears, reminisce about my own wedding and marriage, eat some good food, toast the happy couple, and dance the night away.
I knew things would be different with Titus. They always are. So I did my best to prepare what I could for the evening and mentally, attempted to "go with the flow."
I burned through all my premeditated mommy strategies in about the first ten minutes of the ceremony. I fed Titus way too many fruit snacks. I pulled out the quiet toys for him. Thankfully, I knew enough to pick an aisle seat, because the rest of the wedding I was chasing Titus behind the scenes.
At the reception, Tim was in and out getting pictures and doing other groomsmanly responsibilities, and Titus wasn't interested in his food (see fruit snacks previous paragraph) so we wore plates on our heads to entertain him and I followed him more as he made laps around the mansion. Tim and I took turns chasing and eating, and we even ate the most delicious homemade wedding cake I've ever tasted.
Then we called it, before the dancing was even started, two hours post toddler bed-time and still 45 minutes away from his pack-n-play. We left our college people on the dance floor and swallowed yet another initiation into parenthood. As soon as we got Titus to bed, we fell asleep ourselves. When I looked at my Fitbit before closing my eyes, it was only 9:30 Nashville time. We were exhausted.
The next day, we awoke before everyone else in house. We lingered, showered, ate breakfast. Still not a stir. So we packed up our rental, and said "Later Gator Lake House" and set off early in the hopes that the early start would make the trip a little kinder for Titus.
A few friends of ours decided to explore a little of the city after they woke up. They included me in everything via snapchat, my Iphone's souvenir from the trip. It just wasn't the same as being right there next to them. Yet I know there just aren't enough sugar packets in the world to have made that a doable idea for the current season of toddlerhood we are in.
So, I've still never been to Nashville.
Almost-Nashville weekend is a great metaphor for the bittersweet experiences I've had since becoming a mom. I would be absolutely lying if I didn't grieve many parts of this whirlwind wedding weekend. I miss the dancing, the exploration, the relaxation, and the ability to road trip without a dead battery in a DVD player throwing us into a panic attack.
But you know what I loved? Dressing Titus up in a fancy old man outfit, tie and dockers to boot. Sharing Titus with our college friends and watching them fall in love with him. Waking up to Titus popping up out of his pack-n-play saying "Mama?" and pulling him into bed to snuggle with us. Eating the best damn jam on a biscuit alongside a forever friend, our two faithful husbands, and our drooling, teething baby boys. Pushing our twin beds together in our room because we just couldn't sleep Lucy and Ricky style. Sharing a lakeside view for an hour with the dearest of friends.
My gal pal told me it's okay to grieve the old times and fully embrace the way things are now at the same time. This season is good too, it's just different. It doesn't make me a bad mom when I miss some of my old freedom. Titus is the best gift I've ever received, there will be plenty of dancing, and I just don't have to make it about me so much these days. What a relief.
We came, we celebrated our dear friend's great happiness, and I sincerely hope we blessed them by our presence.
I wish I could just kill all the expectations I have to let go of to make this season all the sweeter. I feel like they are suctioned to me until I've had every last new "first" experience as a parent. At least I pried "wedding expectations" off the list now, or rather, "Almost-Nashville" wedding weekend did it for me.
And one day, my kids will be all grown up, and I'll be able to go explore Nashville and dance the night away if I want to. But I have a feeling I will wish I could trade it for the toddler, sugar packet smashing, chasing season I'm in at this very moment.