The Table That Taught Me a Lesson About Motherhood

I took out a sander and just went for it.

I just wanted to get the thing done. How hard could it be?

“It’s just a table and I am more than capable,” I said to myself.

I’ve had my kitchen table for almost nine years. It had belonged to my in-laws and when we got it secondhand, my husband said we were keeping the table until we found another one that we liked better. As you now know, that time never came.

As my kids grew, the table sustained its fair share of wear and tear. Along with spaghetti stains you could easily spot marker drawings, slime bits here and there, and stubborn glitter stuck between the wooden cracks. But even if we could’ve replaced it by now, I was just too attached to it. Plus, thanks to Joanna Gaines, farm style is back so it gave me another reason to love it even more.

But it was time to give it a face lift.

The first thing I did was call my friend Sarah for DIY tips. I got the materials from the store and as soon as I came back home I started sanding the table. My house was a mess, and my kitchen was exploding with dishes, but since I really wanted to get it all done quickly I set aside everything and went for it. My time was limited so at one point I was sanding the table with my 18 month old daughter strapped to my hip. But I kept going.

I only had one sanding disk with coarser grain and for the second round I was using sanding paper that I had from previous projects. The table felt fairly smooth but not perfect, but I thought “What the heck, it’s good enough, let’s keep going.”

With only fifteen minutes to spare before I had to rush out the door to pick up my kids, I applied Tung Oil and massaged the table just as my friend had told me. It said to wait 10 minutes, I started to gather everything in the car, and before sprinting out the door I grabbed the wooden color stain and quickly brushed it all over. And that my friends, was a BIG MISTAKE.

That afternoon my table looked horrible, it felt sticky and looked dull. You see, the oil was supposed to be the last step but I was in such a hurry that I wasn’t careful enough to read the instructions. So now I had wasted a whole morning. I looked around my kitchen, my dirty dishes were screaming at me, and, defeated, I went and took the sander again and in and grumpily began to sand the stupid table again. And what did I accomplish? Waxy, dull brown pudding, that’s what. At this point I wanted to cry. I knew that If I had just read the instructions, I could have avoided all this…

I should have gotten sanding disks instead of attaching old sanding paper. I could have asked someone to help me at the store. Could haves, should haves! It was all spinning in my head, but dinner and bath time where knocking harder in my brain so I focused on that and put the table project on pause.

The next morning I went back to the store. I got the tools that I needed. I asked for help and went back to finish my project. This time I made sure to read the instructions. Instead of two, I used five sanding disks, each with different grain size going from coarser to thinner grain. I felt confident. It was a beautiful morning and I had a lot of time. With each pass I could feel the table getting smoother and smoother and my stress becoming thinner and thinner. And in this moment of nirvana, I had a “mom-piphany.”

I realized that this table was a perfect analogy of my motherhood journey. Yes, parenting is way harder than any house project I’ve ever done, but the process had many similarities. Becoming a mother was a gift just like my table and then it became sort of chaotic right about the time when I had my second child. If I hadn’t reached out for help and realized that I was lacking emotional tools I don’t think I would have become the mother I wanted for my kids.

I took my first parenting class when my girls where 1 and 3-years-old. It was called Precious Minds and it was taught by a teacher named Geri Clouse. There I learned, contrary to my beliefs, that parenting is not all about instinct. Instinct can only take you so far. I thought that because I was a fairly stable and “good” person I could give this mother role a try and pass with flying colors. I was wrong.

I was “winging” my motherhood just as I was winging it with my table.

“Here’s your baby—Here is motherhood.”

“Here’s your sander—Here’s your table.”

Can anyone do it? Yes.

Do you need a degree? No.

Will it help if you have support, education, the right tools, and help from experts? Absolutely.

I had to be humble enough to realize that I needed education in parenting. I needed emotional skills and I needed to press pause, recognize my mistakes, and start over.

I had to clean my waxy brown muddy mess of motherhood table.

Once I realized the complexity of raising human beings, I switched my perception. I stopped seeing motherhood as a stage and instead started to treat it as the most important project I had. If I could treat this with the same passion as I would a thesis or an MBA what would that do? Could I become an expert? Not really, I am still learning. But parenting classes showed me a better way to parent. Geri taught me useful skills as simple as “Give your toddler 2 choices” or the importance of validating your child’s emotions.

These emotional tools, just like the sanding disks, helped in smoothing my relationship with my kids.

That morning when I was working my way through the sanding disks, back and forth, over and over, I started to get the hang of it and finally found my rhythm.

The same thing happened when I started to apply the skills that I was learning by diving into all things parenting. At first it was challenging but then it became easier to integrate it into my life.

But perhaps one of the most wonderful things that happened in that period, was that I started to enjoy motherhood. I was marveling at the “simple” wins because I knew the importance and the work it took. For example, I took pride in learning how to phrase things in positive way so my toddler would cooperate when getting dressed in the morning.

This project allowed me to validate my progress in my motherhood experience. I am far from perfect. In fact, perfection is not the goal. The goal is to stay in the right path. The goal is to keep learning. But if a teacher hadn’t shown me that there was a path, I would be repeating the same mistakes and I would still have a messy, slime-covered motherhood and I would be crying and breaking down like I did when I had my first two children.

Today I see my table surrounded by six chairs and six humans every time we’re about to eat dinner, and this is what I think: I think that all parents start with a table. Each table is a bit rough at the beginning. Our kids won’t really know the difference. They are just going to see a table. They are going to be able to eat from it and it will serve its purpose. Only we can take the sander and smooth the surface and make it better. We can choose to wing it and see how it goes. Or we can go to the store a couple times, ask our friends for tips, read a little, have patience, start over ,and get the right tools. And only we can make it the best table it can be.

"Hi! I'm Mariana. I am a petite size Mexican from a city called Guadalajara. Almost eight years ago I arrived to San Antonio pregnant with my little girl. This city has seen my family grow to the party of six we are now. I love being involved in my community and my children's schools have been a great platform for me to contribute. I love all things eco-friendly almost as much as I love tacos al pastor. As a communication studies major, I am drawn to literature, film, and social studies. I love dancing. Before having kids, dancing was a big part of my life. Now my husband and I get to host dancing parties in my kitchen with our four little ones. Of all the places we could have ended up living in, San Antonio, with all the Mexican influence and the friendliness of Texans, seems like the perfect fit for our family. "