All The Nopes: No (Mom) Shame in This Game

IMG_2962I’ve heard a lot about the Sweet Spot in parenting lately, and most of it is true. You know what I’m talking about – those few magical years after they learn how to swim but before they learn how to drive when things in your life begin to feel – dare I say – easy. I feel like I’ve finally looked up from years of immersion in a world of diapers, outlet plugs, safety latches and Puddle Jumpers to find not only a couple of big kids with their own personalities, interests and abilities, but to find myself again.

I don’t feel much different than I did a decade ago when I became a parent, or even two decades ago when I was in college. By that I mean I feel (on the inside) like a relatively fun and with-it person. If anything, I feel better. It does not take long, however, when you have school-age children, to be reminded of your complete and utter lack of coolness. I mean, even Niki Taylor is modeling for Talbots these days so it is undeniable that it is happening to all of us. Let’s start with a few of the Nopes that might just creep into your Sweet Spot and give you the impression that you are being…wait for it…Mom-Shamed.

1. Nope to the Nae Nae. Your children will think they look really cool doing the Nae Nae or whatever other kind of dance move is happening at the current moment. They will not think you look cool doing it. My kids were initially kind of excited when I told them I knew how to do the Running Man, but then they busted out laughing when I broke out some early 90s Hammer-esque manuvers. I honestly had no idea. How can it even be allowed to completely reinvent the Running Man and call it the same thing?  Attempt this move and they will be laughing so hard that you will just want to Juju on That Beat right out of the room and turn on Pioneer Woman.

2. Nope to the Gainor. It is totally not fair that dads can still get away with going off the diving board. They are celebrated, rewarded, and even dubbed “cool” for reliving their glory days in the deep end. The bigger the splash, the bigger the applause. Somehow it is not as cool when mom steps up to the platform. Even if we are dutifully wrapped in hundreds of dollars worth of performance-enhancing swimwear, we are somehow not allowed to embarass our children in this way.

3. Nope to the Side Braid. I did this in my hair randomly one night when I washed my face – just for fun. My girls wear their hair like this all the time and it’s kind of cute.  But I did not look like Elsa or the Swiss Miss. I just looked like a 39-year-old woman in a side braid, which prompted one of my kids to ask me “What are you doing with that weird tiny braid in your hair.” Okay, okay. Back to the messy ponytail – in the back.

4. Nope to Foregoing Undereye Concealer. The other night one of my girls asked me why I put eyeshadow under my eyes instead of “on top.” I did not have on any eye shadow at that moment, and she was referenceing the dark circles that surface after a few days that stretch into nights that stretch back into days again. I did not have the heart to tell her that they are just bags that come with the territory of being a mom (So appealing! So fun!) so I told her I started a new trend. Not one she will be following anytime soon, might I add.

5. Nope to Singing Anything Ever. I wonder if Faith Hill has this problem. And Pink? What about Beyonce? Do celebrities’ kids roll their eyes and make screwed-up faces when their moms belt one out to the radio? I BET THEY DO. There is no correlation between vocal ability and the likelihood of being Mom-Shamed when singing along with the radio.

6. Nope to Cheering Wildly at Sporting Events. As a golf mom, this is kind of a Nope anyway, but it is haaard. We have to walk a fine line being there (a definite yes) and not being a Superfan. Sometimes I can’t tell whether that discrete thumbs up I am signaling is welcome or embarrassing. Thank goodness that cheering wildly at sporting events that do not involve your children still seems to fall into the realm of acceptable.  Whew- you may continue to participate in Sandstorm.

7. Nope to Letting On That You Acually Do Understand: I will never forget the first time I heard it. I wanted to run screaming out of the room saying “Too soon! It’s too soon!” But like a dagger to the heart, there it was. “But Mo-om you just don’t get it. You just don’t understand.” But yes I do! I feel only minutes removed from my tweenage self and totally, wholeheartedly and undeniably understand what it’s like to feel left out and ugly and sad for no reason and overwhelmed and uncertain. But nope. That is not going to help. Her struggles are hers to build up and break down and figure out. I’m just there to say, “I know I don’t totally understand, but I’m here.”

I suppose it is a normal part of growing up to think your parents are uncool. And I suppose it is better to be the uncool parent than the cool one, in the long run.  I continue to be thankful for the glimpses of things that remind me that they are still little. Like how they still want me to write notes – even jokes – and put them in their lunch boxes. And how they want me to tuck them in at night. And how they will randomly reach for my hand in the Target parking lot. And then there are the other moments – the glimpses of how it will be when they are older. Like when they say (in surprised voice) “That outfit is really cute!” if I have on something trendy like camo or ankle boots. I like going on walks with my oldest and having her right beside me, making conversation like a grown-up.  These are the things to come. But for right now I’ll take the Sweet Spot – even if gets a little stanky every now and then.

Kelly Barbrey does not let the Mom-Shaming deter her from having a good time and she certainly does not worry about embarassing her children. She might even show up to carpool next week with a side braid rocking to some Despacito just to keep them grounded. 🤦🏼‍♀️














Flooded with Grace


The Rainbow: October 9, 2015

The sky was ominous out my window on Friday October 2, 2015 and it had been raining on and off for what seemed like days. Weeks, even. Saturday came, and more rain. I remember baking batches of pumpkin muffins while the kids played indoors. We were happy, content with the pitter patter as my kitchen filled with the smell of October. I was looking forward to getting the porch pumpkins and mums after church the next day – my perfect way to celebrate the “most wonderful time of year.” But I never got my pumpkins.

I woke up about three a.m. that Saturday morning to the sound of driving rain. Unable to sleep, I made my way to the couch. Rain was tinkering into the house through a small gap in the flue closure of the gas fireplace. It began to splatter onto the painted brick hearth. I blocked out the sound, and fell asleep on the couch, waking up to my husband saying, “We need to check the basement.” I snapped to attention and followed him downstairs to the kids’ playroom around 6 a.m. When he stepped off the last stair, water splashed up from the carpet, pooling around his feet.

Before the kids woke up, we tried moving our belongings upstairs. My husband located his phone to call a company to see about pumping out the water, but he was distracted by a barrage of photos, texts and posts on Facebook. Strangely enough this scene, this waking up to water, was everywhere. We seemed to be some of the lucky ones…

My husband jumped in the car, allowing our older daughter to ride with him, to check the levels of nearby Lake Katharine one street over. They could not even make it past the end of our street. Neighbors were floating up and down the street in John boats as the swollen lake had overtaken its borders and the surrounding streets, cars and houses. My husband came back with our daughter, who was letting loose her own river of frightened tears. He grabbed a rain hat and went back out, this time without the car. I didn’t see him again all morning. Rain was still coming down, and I kept refreshing my phone for Facebook updates about what was going on our neighborhood. Was it this bad everywhere? This felt like a twilight zone version of Titanic.

As if moving through an incomprehensible dream, I began filling the bathtubs with water and saving water in every thermos and container I could find. Trying to reassure my daughters was a struggle when I was uncertain about what was going on myself. Some of our neighbors came over to seek higher ground, as the water’s edge was knocking on their doorstep around the corner. We played board games and I made hot dogs (forget bread and milk- thank goodness I had the hot dogs!) for lunch, and we had the pumpkin muffins, too. It began to feel even more like Titanic – the part where the people are walking around in their evening dresses and life jackets, drinking cocktails, unsure of their next move. We were going through the motions, trying to keep calm, but were filled with uncertainty.

We kept checking Facebook for neighborhood updates, but it felt like we were in an isolation chamber. As the stories came out, we became more and more concerned. People were being rescued from second story windows, and some homes were completely destroyed. Thankfully, everyone was present and accounted for, even if completely shaken.

What happened over the next week was also surreal. We were evacuated on Monday because it was feared another dam was going to burst, and we left our home in a National Guard vehicle with neighbors and their pets. Thankfully, we were able to return the next day, and that particular dam did hold, but that awful night I was filled with fear of what we would find when we returned.

For a week we assumed a strange and methodical routine. People figured out what to do. How to help themselves. How to help each other. Get up. Go to your Post (handing out water, ripping out flooring, watching neighborhood children so parents could work…). Work your post until the day was done. Collapse into bed and do it all over again the next day. Like pioneers. Like Survivor. It was just the strangest thing. Choppers were hovering overhead, day in and day out. National guard and police were manning every street. Would things ever be normal? What, even, was normal?

But in all of the loss, all of the devastation, there was a sense of community that kept everyone going. Not just the people within the affected neighborhoods but those from nearby neighborhoods and far flung states coming in buses and vans and helping out doing whatever they could. I remember looking up from the water tent several days  into the cleanup, and there was this sliver of a rainbow, peeking through the hazy clouds. God’s covenant. God’s “I got this.” What had He been trying to teach us? Did we see? He was there the whole time. I think we all learned something in those weeks following “The Flood.” No matter whether your home was destroyed, slightly damaged, or spared. Whether you were rescuer or rescued. Whether you took shelter or offered it. Whether you took a hand or extended it. Or all of the above. Tables were turned. Roles were reversed. Prayers were lifted and God was sought. Maybe the Lord’s will was for the creek, er, creeks (and lakes and rivers…) to rise to reveal something. We should not worry, as it will not add another hour to our lives. He was teaching us something we could only learn from Him. And he was teaching us that he will never let us down.


Leaving in the National Guard caravan


Trying to be brave


Water, water everywhere

Almost two years later, the neighborhood is finally nearing the stages of healing. Houses have been repaired or rebuilt. And the hum of choppers overhead and rumble of National Guard vehicles has long been replaced by the chirping of crickets and laughter of children running in the yards and fishing in the little lake. Few have moved away. If anything, I think the sense of community has made this place even more sought-after as a potential home. I know I don’t want to leave.

But I will confess, even with an extra dose of faith, it may take our family – and many Columbia, South Carolina families – just a little bit longer before rain is considered “sleeping weather” again.

Kelly Barbrey wanted to be a meteorologist when she was in third grade. She would tape the weather section of the Atlanta Journal to her pull-down window shade and point at it with a yardstick. She will be keeping a watchful eye on Irma and Jose this weekend.

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you, and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.” – Isaiah 43:2