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Imperfect Parenting is the Best Gift for Our Kids

When I recently ran into a fellow mom and asked her how she was, she exhaled in exhaustion, “Oh, I just lost my sh** over a Skittle in the car with my kids.” I snorted from laughing so hard because I loved her guttural, awesome honesty.

We went on to talk about how you can try your best to be calm and cool, but sometimes when you’re a parent, you just have to lose your sh**, plain and simple.

We don’t show these imperfect sides of ourselves to other parents often enough. We talk about the easy parts of parenting--of the love and all-consuming protection we have for our kids and all the adorable things they do. We neglect to share the stories of how we majorly mess it up.

But really, is this messing up? As parents, we’re armed with the daunting task of leading these wee ones to an adulthood that entails greater accomplishments than eating Cheetos on the couch while binging on Netflix. Sometimes on our quest for this, we might get a little gritty, grouchy or short with them as they act like little terrorists at times.

Why do we parents expect perfection from ourselves?  

Another friend’s son bit my son when they were playing. I seriously didn’t think twice about it. They were excited and simply goofing around. Her face was sullen and she apologized profusely saying she feels like she’s failing all the time as a mom. I reminded her he bit my son--she didn't.

Here’s the deal, parents: If you care enough to feel like you’re failing, it means you’re not failing. The parents who are, in fact, failing, are the ones who are phoning it in, totally unaware that they’re majorly junking it up.

When I was pregnant with my daughter, I swam often. The pool at the gym was always empty during my lunch break. I’ll never forget the feelings I had doing laps with that girl in my belly.

As I floated on my back, the pressure and pain finally subsiding in my body, the water would fill in my ears, swishing in and out. As I breathed deeply, the sound of my breaths echoed within my ears. I could hear my heartbeat as I rested my hands on my swollen belly, whispering to my sweet Cecelia.

Those were some of the most peaceful moments of my life to date. And to be honest, those were some of the most horrifying moments of my life to date. The idea of having this human life growing inside of me that I would soon have to make sure was living and thriving outside of me was completely overwhelming.

As I did slow laps from the 50 pounds I packed on (come on now, don’t judge), I stared up at the ceiling of the pool, wondering what this little girl would bring into my life. I wondered if I was good enough or ready enough or patient enough to even know where to begin.

It’s been nearly 16 years as I write this since I was pregnant and swimming, and I’ve learned I am not good enough, ready enough or patient enough to even know where to begin as a parent, but I am willing and smart enough to know I’m doing a damn good job.

And hey, so are you. You really are.

I now have 2 kids, and I make mistakes every single day, but I’ve come to realize mistakes are not horrible. I wish I were a mom who could always speak sweetly and patiently, but the truth is, I tend to speak through gritted teeth to my kids at times because I want them to realize if they are misbehaving, I’m not cool with it, the same way if they’re misbehaving as adults the world will not always surround them with love and giggly praises.

The other morning I was rushing them out the door as I always do, shouting, “Come on, come on! Put some fire in your bellies!” I ran out into the garage as I was flailing and shouting as I realized my neighbor was walking by with her dog. I immediately apologized for the yelling because I assumed she was one of the sweet-talking parents of this world. She looked at me with a grin and said, “Oh, no need to apologize. I get it.”

I would have hugged her if we weren’t running so late. I looked at her and said, “Thanks for saying that. I needed to hear that today.”

That little glimpse of shared pain of parenting was so eye-opening for me. It turns out all other parents are not perfect. We all secretly think we’re junking it up, and the truth is, we sort of are, but what does perfection look like? Scary, plastic and mundane without reality, and how is that healthy for anyone?

So if you lost your sh** today over your kids arguing over the last Skittle or you raised your voice to remind them that you are a human with emotions and not a robot punching bag, cut yourself some slack. You are not failing. Your kids don’t think you’re failing. Go on and ask them.

We embrace the ugly, imperfect sides of our kids every day with love without question.

Teaching them to reciprocate that grace to us is one of the best gifts we can give them.

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Nov 22, 2019

Beautifully written.

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