I am comfortably curled into the left end of our sofa with my “Don’t Stress Do Your Best” Threshold mug from Target. I slowly bring the stoneware vessel to my mouth and inhale the campfire notes from my blueberry s’mores concoction.
I thumb through the history tab on my Starbucks app. There are only eight purchases between December and February – I feel like a kid who has just learned to bike without training wheels.
Starbucks was my everything after Anna was born in 2018.
I religiously drank venti macchiatos with extra espresso shots for at least two months after she moved in. The macchiato would sit proudly on the stand to my right, and I’d sip the beverage as she snoozed on my chest. It would get reheated only before we got going to collect her biggest brother from kindergarten and immediately after we returned home.
I thought my dependence on the Seattle-founded retailer would evaporate once Anna grew out of infancy. But as she matured into toddlerhood, there were even more reasons for trips to the perkiest place in town. If dad was coming home late or was out of town; if it was a tantrum heavy week; if I was challenged by nap times, I’d be at Starbucks. Usually once but sometimes twice a day. I even ordered mochas from DoorDash when I was potty training our middle guy.
I hadn’t experienced this when I first became a mom.
Our oldest was an only child for almost four years before his brother was born. Our house was quiet, neat and free of stacks of parenting books. I hadn’t yet marked myself with the hot mess mom status.
But then there were more children. The house was suddenly and always so loud. There was screaming, angry crying and fits of sibling rivalry. Anna’s legs had grown strong enough to run with the big dogs, and my introverted soul couldn’t adjust quickly enough to our new family dynamics. And I needed my Starbucks to get through it.
I had inadvertently conditioned myself to believe I couldn’t thrive during the day without the aide of a barista in a green apron.
And then something happened that gently whispered, “there’s another way, sweet mama.”
This past November, my sister-in-law gifted me Grumpy Mom Takes a Holiday by Valerie Woerner in the McDonald’s parking lot at the end of our Tennessee family vacation. My French-fried fingers thumbed through the introduction on our way out of Gatlinburg. The book nearly toppled to my feet when I read about the ways the world has probably conditioned me to think about motherhood.
“Moms can’t function without coffee,” was first on her list.
How did she know I needed to read those words? Seriously. Did she somehow know how many times I’ve consoled myself with a Starbucks trip in the morning after a day heavy with toddler eye rolls?
Valerie’s book challenged me to find joy in the mundane.
It challenged me to rethink all the stereotypes the world has reserved for us mamas. I don’t have to be a hot mess mama. I don’t have to speak those things over myself or anyone else. I can choose to not sulk in my circumstances. I can count to three or ten before I growl at my kids to keep their screeching to a minimum. When Target trips have been condensed to get what you need and get out or meals out are only at restaurants without waiters, I can choose to remember what little blessings they actually are instead of thinking of them as inconveniences.
These are my present circumstances and they’re so dang short. I blinked and my oldest was in second grade. I can only imagine how quickly it will go for our two still at home.
So could I ditch the grande, non-fat, non-whip caramel macchiatos with extra caramel and added chocolate sauce and embrace the loud circumstances?
Could I go a day and then two and three without collecting those little green stirrers and actually sit on the floor and enjoy playing with my kids?
Could I embrace the margins when our days are mostly free of plans?
Could I make a brew at home instead of fixing to flee at the sound of the first tantrum?
Could I tackle all the things I thought I couldn’t do well?
At first, I thought it would never be possible.
So I started with Starbucks. Instead of choosing that, I chose to engage in some floor play and built with LEGOS although I’m just a mediocre architect.
Instead of choosing to grab a grande drink, I sat on the floor and rolled the engines back and forth while Michael reenacted Thomas the Train episodes. I made pew-pew noises with my attacking soldier and knocked over zombies. My imagination isn’t A+, but I sat there anyway.
Instead of choosing to spend $5 sometime after their biggest brother boarded the bus, I choose to enjoy the margins of our unplanned days. I enjoy sipping a brewed by me coffee while they climb and slide within our backyard play area. I feel the steam rise from my mug, and I smile as I watch their little shoes press into the tire mulch.
Instead of fueling myself with any coffee chain, I’ve put Starbucks and yummy independent shops into the ‘when I want a treat’ category.
Today 95 % of the coffee I drink is made at home. I experiment with recipes, and Michael helps too. His face is so joyful as he measures the ingredients and gives it a good stir before I add the Nitro Creamer. I wouldn’t have seen a lick of that joy if I continued to go through the drive-thru on a daily basis.
So to my dear Starbucks – it’s not you, it’s me.
Thanks for the memories and the delicious coffee. And even though it wasn’t your fault to begin with, our break-up has made me into a better and more present wife and mother.