The best Mother’s Day gift today is the one I’ll give to myself – the gift of imperfection.
Friday night Daddylibrium and I had a rare date night. We shared the evening with a couple we have known for a while but see infrequently.
We had great conversations about jobs and kids, movies and kids, travel and kids and sports and kids. “Mary” is one of those Moms who has it together, one of those moms you want to be like. She throws great birthday parties with gourmet cupcakes, gets her girls to soccer practice, posts adorable kid pics on Facebook and never shows up with boogers or chocolate cake smeared across her shirt (unlike this Mom). She is warm and bubbly. She researches schools and parenting. She also has a successful career that can require long hours. Her husband travels for work, so she is often left to handle family matters all by herself.
She talked about the struggle between being present with her kids and feeling compelled to answering her work texts that arrive at all hours.
At the end of the night, Mary said she didn’t think she took to parenting as well as some of her friends who seem to gracefully breeze through it. This echoed words I have heard from so many wonderful, talented and loving moms, Moms who I emulate, whose kids eat better than mine and never say “poopy head” when guests are visiting. It hit home because there are many times each day when I beat myself up for little things I do as a parent.
This morning, Eli rubbed melted marshmallows all over the wall to see he could use it to scale the wall like Spider-man. I got him a wash cloth and a bucket of soapy water, but I also yelled at him for his super improvisation. He cleaned the wall while I wallowed in guilt for yelling. After all, the stringy melted marshmallow did look like Spidey’s web.
I apologized for yelling and told Eli, “The next time mommy yells at you, feel free to nicely say, ‘please don’t yell Mommy.’”
I still felt bad. I realized that at this very moment there are tons of amazing, devoted, loving Moms who are feeling bad because they got frustrated with their kid today. Moms who devote nearly all their waking hours to loving, nurturing and caring for their children. Yet one little slip up makes them feel inadequate.
Imagine how much better it would be if that voice in your head focused on the 219 victories you had with your children rather than the one fail. The way you sweetly and calmly cleaned up your two-year old when he woke at 2 a.m. with a poopy diaper, giving you unexpected bath and laundry duty. The boo-boos you kissed, the hugs you gave, the vegetables you served, the spilled milk you cleaned, the books you read again and again, the shoes you tied, the diapers you changed, the patience you showed when your two-year old insisted on dressing himself, which takes 18 times longer than when you do it.
Oh yeah, and what about the block towers you made, the beaters you let them lick off, the trip to the park where you carried the scooters they insisted on bringing and abandoned after 19 seconds? Remember all the hands that you washed, teeth that you brushed, clothes that you changed? Singing “Werewolf in London” in the car because that’s your son’s favorite song? Remember when you noticed sibling tension, so you whisked your little one away to help you wash the dishes (which made a huge mess but gave the kids some much-needed separation)? And how you helped the kids come up with a solution when they were fighting over the green balloon? You handled that tantrum in the parking lot of TJ Maxx with grace?
So why do so many of us focus on our slip ups, which are tiny in comparison to the things we do right?
When I make a mistake at work, I apologize, fix it, put together a strategy for preventing the mistake in the future and move on. When I burn dinner, I order pizza without missing a beat.
Yes, the stakes are higher with our children, but children are also amazingly resilient. My mom had nine children and was not overly affectionate due to her stoic upbringing. She sleep trained me by letting me cry, spanked me when I was naughty and likely lost it a time or two. Do I remember those things? No. Do I feel like they damaged me? Not really. I remember falling asleep cozily on her lap, the tears she wiped, trips to K-mart where I got to ride a little merry-go-round, her special swedish pancakes and the way she made me feel better when I was sick.
I still want my mommy when I’m sick.
So today I’m making a vow to change. I’ll continue to strive to be a great mom, but I won’t replay mommy mistakes in my mind. I will apologize for my mistakes, fix them when I can and move on. I will do my best. I will love and cherish my children, but I will do it imperfectly.
When my mind reminds me of how I failed, I will fight back by listing the many minor victories of the day. It will make me a better Mom and a happier person. I’ll encourage all the amazing Moms I know to do the same. The world would be a better place if we extended to ourselves the grace and understanding that we give our girlfriends, our kids and others we love.
Send this link to the great Moms you know. Remind them that it is great to be a devoted, loving, caring and imperfect Mom.