One of my simple pleasures is finding a good deal. My mom on her fridge for years had a bumper sticker that said “I”d rather be shopping!” She shopped me out as I kid so as an adult I am not a shopper in the sense of “sport” but I DO love a good deal. A few weekends ago there was a big “stuff and save” type sale and summer items like shorts and shirts were deeply discounted. Red flags went flying up. Chris was in desperate need of a few things, so we decided to turn the trip into a family affair. We needed to go to the Farmers Market that morning and Chris suggested we “pop in” to Old Navy for a pair of shorts and a few shirts. Of course on Saturday morning during “stuff and save,” it was packed. We ran into neighbors, long lost friends, distant relatives and needless to say, the twenty minute trip quickly burned well in to an hour. Caleb and Joshua were restless and I am pretty sure they were pretending to be “puppies.” At one point they were both on their hands and knees crawling across the floor. It was cute and harmless, and I was happy they were not pulling clothing off the racks, screaming, or begging for anything. The germ factor was slightly disturbing. However, I truly try to be pretty hands off with my kids when it comes to germs. If I got on them for every germ they touched, it would be necessary to place them in a gigantic bubble that would protect them as they traveled through life.
So the “puppies” followed us into a huge family sized dressing room to try on the piles of clothes we now “needed.” Chris was the main focus. He needed my attention and expertise as to which polo looked best. Out of the corner of my eye I noticed Joshua. He was licking the dressing room mirror! Yikes! Now that was more germs than even this mom could take! “Joshua, stop licking the mirror!” I scolded. “Wow,” I thought. Pretty sure I’ve never said that before?! The next thing I knew, we are out of the dressing room and off to purchase the polos. In the checkout line I ran into a member of our church and she giggled as she repeated what I had said in the dressing room to Joshua. (She was not mocking me or the situation, but I could tell she was a little surprised that the pastor’s wife was having to scold her 2 year old to stop licking the mirror in the dressing room!) I too was surprised – but not really.
My mothering world has been tipped upside down and tossed around to where I would not recognize my parenting if you showed it to me on paper prior to children. I would not have thought that Kylee would have had TWO cavities this past year. I would not have thought I would have gotten a call from the elementary school telling me that Kylee had early release and that the bus had taken her back to the school because I had failed to pick her up. I would not have thought that you would have told me that the tooth fairy would have FORGOTTEN to take my child’s tooth TWICE this past spring. And I would not have thought you would have told me that my 2 year old would be licking mirrors in the Old Navy dressing room. But it all happened.
Now this is where the bad mommy mantra would traditionally kick in. Does it matter that we still faithfully brush our 6.5 year olds teeth every night? Nope – she still got cavities! Does it matter that I was a new mom to the school system and don’t have any other mom friends or neighbors to chat about the details of early release with? Nope – still wasn’t at the bus! Does it matter that Kylee has lost 8 teeth in the past 22 months? Nope – the “tooth fairy” still forgot! Does it matter that we were just trying to get through the store without screaming at one another or losing our minds? Nope – Joshua (the puppy) was still licking mirrors!
Early on in motherhood just one of these instances would have sent me into a deep depression and I would have felt extreme guilt and shame. For weeks I would have been mentally beating myself up and comparing myself to the other moms who “seem” to keep perfect track of their children’s schedules. Surely they personally brush and floss each child’s teeth 3 times a day, never forget anything on the calendar, always remember the “tooth fairy,” and somehow area able to keep their children perfectly behaved on family trips to Old Navy (or any other public place for that matter)! After I shifted from the depression, I would vow to be a better mom: more organized, a better brusher, and no more “puppy” games. This usually left me disappointed because I continued to fall short and fail only to cycle back through the feeling of frustration, guilt and shame. Then I would simply come to the resolution and would repeatedly say and believe, “I am bad mom.”
Somehow in the midst of the more recent incidences things are different. I let the little things go and ignore the lying voices who say how “bad” I am. I listen to a message of grace. It is message of grace sent (from very real and normal mothers who have gone before me). Mothers who remind me I can and never will be perfect. I do the very best I can by my children and I embrace the truth, I cannot be perfect.
If you have felt less than perfect recently because you lost your cool with your kiddos this morning and screamed about the cereal on the floor. Or you forgot to pack your child a snack. Or you got a dirty look from an on-looker as your child climbed up a 5 foot brick wall and jumped off. Or you got a call from the school because your child threw up – AFTER they told you their tummy hurt and you sent them to school because you thought it was “nothing.” Or maybe you just cannot seem to hold all the “mommy” pieces together. Hear me say…you are not perfect. You never will be. Thank goodness! There is actually freedom in this truth.
Please know that we are daily given the chance to start fresh and new. New tender mercies each morning. We can run the mistakes over in our minds or we can let go of the “perfection” factor and simple do the best we can with the day before us. It is important to shake the mommy “should” voices that we hear in our heads. Spend the moments investing in your children rather than your reviewing your mistakes. Start today (or tomorrow) with a morning kiss and hug for your kiddo. Read a book together, do a puzzle, go play basketball, paint a picture, become a “puppy” for 10 minutes. Spend a few quiet minutes each day investing in their little life…in their world. Look at them in the eyes and tell them what you think is special or unique about them. Ask what the “high” and “low” of their day was. Those sweet moments of investment are far more powerful than any “perfection” of holding the house (figuratively or literally) together.
I don’t know if God gave me children to keep me humble, keep me on my knees, or to keep me from thinking I had life under control, but I am thankful for His grace. I need a healthy dose of daily humility. I do not have it all together or this parenting thing figured out. With each child God has shown me that I cannot do it without grace. I cannot do it without help. I cannot do it perfectly. So I pray, I live, I laugh, I mess up, and then I start again with God’s fresh tender mercies. When I start again, I shift my focus from control to these precious gifts – my children. They give me the desire to keep going.
Take a deep breath…if needed, start new…and remember: YOU ARE A GREAT MOM!