I took my kids to the park today to meet some friends. A few minutes after our arrival, my youngest son ran over to me, “Poop. Poop.”
We ran off to the bathroom (you know toddlers give zero notice), raced in, and I pulled down his pants quickly.
To discover he was actually telling me he had already pooped.
Right there in the nasty park bathroom, my child was covered in poop (why must all of my stories involve poop??). I had no change of clothes. No wipes. Nothing.
Nothing but a poorly lit, shady bathroom with a son covered in feces.
And I didn’t die. I didn’t even vomit. (Though visualizing this scene might make you do just that.)
As I washed out his shorts and bathed him in the park bathroom sink (pretending like germs don’t exist), I thought back to how I would have reacted if this was my first child.
I would have died. I would have literally died. Or at least wish the earth would open up and swallow me whole.
I would have been sweating. Frustrated. And crying while driving home and wondering if my child would ever stop pooping in his pants. (Spoiler alert: he would. Eventually.)
But today I cleaned him up, washed my hands 27 times, and let him enjoy the natural consequences of wearing washed-in-the-bathroom-sink-soaked shorts the rest of the morning.
My first time mom self would have had a more dramatic response (rightfully so), but at least she would have freaking remembered to pack an extra pair of clothes.
For years, I tried to be the best, most awesome mom.
After failing miserably at that unrealistic expectation, I have lowered the bar to be the good enough mom.
Sometimes I surprise myself with how far I have fallen off the perfectionism wagon.
When our children look back on their childhoods, they won’t remember every single moment. They won’t even remember most of the moments. They will mostly remember the culmination of their overall experience.
Did you love more than you lost it?
Did you encourage more than you criticized?
Did you laugh more than you cried?
Did you hug them more than you corrected?
Did you apologize when you failed again at all of the above?
When I tried to be the most awesome mom, every misstep sent me into a tailspin of guilt and insecurity.
As the good enough mom, I know that there is as much power in forgiveness as there is in a kind word to strengthen a relationship.
I know that the occasional freak out doesn’t make me a bad mom. It makes me normal.
I know that children are amazing and somehow overlook my mistakes.
I know that my closest friends are the ones who have seen me fail the worst, as paradoxical as that seems.
We spend so much time beating ourselves up with everything we are not that we forget to notice who we are. I see this all over the Internet…
“I wish I kept my house cleaner…”
“I wish I made healthier dinners for my family…”
“I wish I was more fun…”
“I wish I had more patience…”
“I wish I could keep up with the laundry…”
“I wish there were more hours in the day…”
But when I look at you, my sweet friend, that’s not what I see. And that’s not what your kids see.
They see you at every dance recital, beaming in the audience.
Throwing the football with them in the afternoon.
Putting food on the table, even if it’s frozen pizza or McDonald’s.
Showing up in their classroom to help their teacher.
Driving them all over creation for their activities.
Making cookies for the bake sale.
Laughing at their jokes.
Giving the best hugs.
Dressing up for your husband on date nights.
Your eyes smile when you look into their eyes.
They see you. They may not stop to thank you. You may feel overlooked. And they most certainly do not realize how important you are. But they see you.
You don’t have to be the perfect mom. You don’t have to be the best mom. You don’t have to be the mom you wish you were.
You just have to be there. To be there when they need you. To be there when the world is lonely and hard. To be there when it counts.
To say we’ve overcomplicated parenting is the understatement of the century. In trying to be all the things to all the people, we’ve lost sight of the fact that our kids don’t notice or care. They aren’t at the park comparing notes on how you measure up against the other moms. They aren’t sitting in school making a mental checklist of your day’s failures. They aren’t drifting off to sleep hoping you try a little harder tomorrow.
Your kids adore you. They think you’re the greatest woman on the planet. You are the one they run to when they have bad dreams or scrape their knees. You are their #1, their hero.
Look at yourself through the eyes of your child, and you will hear a much different narrative than the reel that plays in your mind.
The great paradox (I am really enjoying that word today, apparently) of it all is that the harder you try to be the best mom, the more stressed, frustrated, and annoyed you become. But when you give yourself grace to be the good enough mom, you can enjoy your children, savor the sweet moments, and stop feeling guilty for the salty ones.
You are a really great mom. Go be awesome today!