Yesterday, my family picked up our yard from the weekend’s events. We hosted a neighborhood party and were putting away the remains from it: folding tables, balls, ride on toys, etc.
While cleaning, I found four spoons in the yard. Four of my good spoons, that is. These were not from the party. Rather, my kids take a spoon outside anytime they need to dig. And you’d be surprised how many opportunities they find to dig dirt.
Yesterday also marked six months since my dad passed away. Six long months without one of my most favorite people on this earth.
Which is why finding spoons in the yard on this particular day was such a sweet gift.
When I was a kid, my siblings and I also found many opportunities that required taking all of our spoons outside. There were holes to be dug and flowers to be watered and brothers to be hit. And spoons were the utensil of choice for it all.
Which became problematic because we never brought the spoons back inside.
My dad got so tired of us never having spoons when we actually needed them for things like, you know, eating. When a restaurant in our area shut down, he purchased all of their spoons. I am talking hundreds of spoons.
We never ran out of spoons again.
Then, a few years later, we all grew up and exchanged playing in the dirt for sporting events and dates with boys and hanging out with friends.
And my parents still had hundreds of spoons.
It became a family joke that anytime friends would come over, my dad would offer them a box of spoons.
Which is why finding spoons in the yard on a hard day made me smile.
Because I know how quickly the day will come when my spoon drawer is full and my yard remains intact. And this will all be a distant memory.
I’ve thought a lot this year about the memories my kids will carry into adulthood. And the memories that will sustain them when I’m gone. They certainly will remember the time I killed an aquarium full of fish. And my attempt at homemade ice cream that exploded into every crevice in my kitchen. And how they call me Mrs. Hannigan when it’s time to do chores.
And I think of how I will look back on this time in their lives. The kind of mom I was to my young kids.
It seems like the modern day mom’s goal in raising kids is perfection. Straight A’s. The varsity team. Impeccable fashion. Nutritious meals.
And I wonder if raising kids feels so hard because we are so obsessed with getting it right that we miss the memories being made.
Your kids never asked you to be perfect.
Let me say that again: Your kids do not care if you’re perfect.
They want to be loved and accepted and cherished. And given the freedom to make mistakes and given grace when they do.
You love your kids even when they totally blow it. You still adore them when they’re horrible. (Maybe not in that moment, but eventually.) They’re still your favorite even when they fail a test or don’t make the team or fall off their bike.
And maybe, just maybe, they feel the same way about you.
You’re so hard on yourself. Constantly feeling like a failure. Never measuring up to the imaginary (but very real) standard of perfection you have in your mind.
But your kids don’t see you that way. The see you as the mom who smiles through the gymnastics routine (even though you’ve seen it 67 times), the mom who fills their bellies (whether it’s with boxed mac n cheese or a meal made from scratch), the mom who drives to Timbuktu and back (and back again) so they can have fun with their friends, and the mom who delights in their very existence.
You don’t have to be the perfect mom to be a really great mom.
And from my experience, my kids’ favorite memories are the times when I was anything but perfect. And my favorite memories of them are the same. The most treasured family picture I have is my middle son unknowingly giving the middle finger. My kids’ clothes weren’t matching. Their hair was messy. And my son flipped me off with gusto. And that picture went viral and landed me on a radio show. Years later, people still laugh about it.
Because life is best lived with all its messy and unexpected parts.
Life is so short. And childhood is even shorter. The day will come when I no longer find spoons in the yard. And when I look back on these years, I won’t care what I served for dinner or if my kids made A’s or C’s or if they wore the same shirt five days in a row.
I will care if the leave my home knowing they are loved and valued and cherished.
And if that’s the goal, I can let them (and myself) off the hook when life is a lot messier than I expected. And when we all blow it in ways we regret.
Love covers a multitude of sins. And in a family of seven, our sins are many. So I hold to the truth that love is always better than perfection. And loving my kids is a whole lot easier than getting it all right all of the time. So today I choose love and grace and kindness and forgiveness. Even in the messiest parts of life.
Today’s mess is tomorrow’s memory. And losing my dad has shown me that the sweetest memories are often born from life’s most imperfect moments.
Choose love. Not perfection.
And when the spoons are no longer spread across the yard, you will have chosen the better thing.