I am a classic perfectionist. Born of a family of “it’s the other guy’s fault” and “you’re the best one out there” I grew up expecting more of myself than I should have and did not experience failure well. I still don’t. I’m pouting tonight. I’m finally not too proud to admit that. I submitted a short writing piece- not my best work but still good- to a motherhood journal to be one of this quarter’s authors. I did not get selected. So much of me wants to sink into the words that my dad would say if I were to call him tonight and tell him. “It was rigged. You’re just as good as the ten people chosen. They must have been intimidated by you…” But the truth is, I read the pieces written by the women who were selected, and they are simply much better writers. The prose, the voice, the lyricism in each of their pieces was exquisite. What I had to offer wasn’t up to par, plain and simple. And that’s OK! Can I get better? Absolutely. Do I want to become a better writer? Yes. Does this relate to motherhood? It does. 😉
I want to be the perfect mom. It’s my “job”. I’ve been good at every job I’ve done. But all of those jobs came with training, with clear expectations and regular affirmation of work quality. Nothing prepares us adequately for the thrill, shock, and rollercoaster ride that is mothering a child. And yet we hold ourselves to a standard that suggests otherwise. This morning my daughter screamed and got mad at something (a daily occurrence) but for some reason the way she yelled stunned and terrified my 5 month old son to the point of hiccuping sobs. His hiccuping sobs made my daughter feel so bad that she started bawling and I was left to rock, shush and calm both of them thinking to myself “who could have told me that I would be here, trying to calm both of my hysterical children all because of one angry little scream?” I had to laugh. They were both crying simply because the other was crying! I wanted to scream at the lunacy of it! The whole situation was ludicrous. And there are many many ludicrous scenarios that we will endure in our parenting journeys. Nothing prepared me for the night that my daughter would throw herself out of her crib in a desperate attempt to get to us. Nobody prepared me for my son being wheeled on a cart into the NICU just minutes after he was separated from my body and for the first time in 41 weeks not being able to wrap my arms around him. And most days I certainly don’t know what to do with my too smart, so fiery, always questioning little girl. I snap. I yell. I make mistakes and I hate it. I’m not perfect at being her mother. But do you know what my Heavenly Father reminds me in those moments of intense remorse when I have to hang my head at the way I fall short or am left powerless? My kids don’t need a perfect mother. Neither do yours. Because they are going to fail. They are going to make mistakes and fall down hard and come up short. And they don’t need a parent who tells them to place blame elsewhere. They don’t need a mother or father to make excuses for them or to tell them they need to be perfect at everything. Our children do need someone to show them their strengths and weaknesses and to see both with grace-filled clarity. They need someone to hold them when they fail and to explore both the ways in which they can do better and the ways in which they simply can’t. Sometimes even our best will not make the grade. That’s OK too. It can be shocking to have those first experiences of wingless leaps. We are not always going to take off and soar. Oh we want to. So badly we want to. Especially when we work so hard. Tally the bruises. Safeguard the scars. They make you human and ensure that your babes will be raised with the fearlessness that comes with pure love and acceptance. My garden is filled with rocks but it is yielding some beautiful growth. If that’s not a metaphor for motherhood then I don’t know one.
Grace to you, sweet hearts. There is freedom in grace