I’d like to welcome all my parent friends into a world where we stop freaking out over nothing.
A world where we stop feeling condescendingly sorry for other people’s otherwise loved and cared for children because we saw a video of them wearing disposable diapers or because they cried when they found out they were getting a sibling.
A land where we don’t spend an hour making school lunches because we feel inadequate and saddened our child is the only one who doesn’t have a PB & J sandwich made in the shape of a panda.
Yes, a world where there is enough grace to go around for each of us. A world where we laugh and have fun, and for the sweet love of Diana Ross, don’t take it all so damn seriously.
If you’re still not convinced I’m on to something, here are some reasons to try laughing instead:
1. We can do everything right on the parenting front, and our kids still might end up on Maury Povich.
How we raise our children absolutely has an impact on their behavior and character as adults, but sometimes no matter how loved, breastfed, cloth-diapered, gluten-free, homeschooled, attachment parented they are or aren’t, some of our kids are still going to end up on Maury Povich.
Why? Because they’re independent people who will have their own set of experiences and brain chemistries that can cause them to act like a fool.
A set of parents can have one child who is doing charitable work in Nigeria, while the other child is still living in their basement smoking pot and putting Bounty sheets on the air vents. I have a friend who has a two kids, one an angel and one who likes to get into a lot of mischief. She once said, “If Sarah was our only child, I’d be really arrogant about my parenting skills.” So I guess our more difficult kids are here to keep us grounded, right? (Insert awkward laugh.)
Sometimes it seems like trying to do the best for our children starts to evolve into a comparison perfectionism. You know, that quality everyone brags about having during interviews as their worst quality, but really (wink, wink) it’s an amazing quality, implying we never settle for anything but the very best out of ourselves and everyone else?
Well, it’s not that great of a quality, believe me. From one perfectionist to another, there is a lot of time wasted, nails bitten — all over trivial pursuits.
Perfection doesn’t exist. Can we just move on?
2. Laughing at mishaps is way more fun than crying about them.
Parenting is hard and it’s serious business, which is why it must be laughed at relentlessly. For starters, laughing at all the whoopsie daisies is much more fun than crying about them. This isn’t to say that when a traumatic event happens, we laugh jovially like maniacs, it just means I want an awareness that “life happens,” and it can be messy and weird and totally imperfect. But in my opinion, it’s a life much more exciting, interesting, and hilarious. Assuming everyone is going to make it out fairly unscathed — I like to give it a good guffaw laugh and then move on.
The other day, my daughter Lucy fell off the couch. I was right next to her, yet somehow she managed to dive off like she was cliff jumping. Her landing was less than ideal and my reaction was so over the top, I could have won an Oscar for “Best dramatic over-reaction to a child’s owie.” She stopped crying after 15 seconds, I stopped crying after 15 minutes. She had a little red mark on her forehead and my eyes were red and swollen from mom guilt.
Later, when all was well, my husband started to impersonate my reaction. At first, my pride took a hit, but he was right. So we laughed. And laughed and laughed. My mom guilt turned into “Thank God I don’t have my own reality TV show and that was captured on camera” — a swap I’d gladly accept any day.
3. We’re not in control nearly as much as we think we are.
I’m a control freak interlaced with a real laid back personality. So I’m a little weird, but I do have a false sense of security that I’ve got this whole parenting thing down on lock. I work from home, too, so keeping organized is key to preventing bursting into tears at a moments notice. But no matter how many “i”s I’ve dotted and “t”s I’ve crossed, crap can happen at any time and throw my perfectly planned life into chaos.
Just last week, I created a meticulous schedule with my baby. I had everything planned, and was jazzed to implement my new “kicking ass and taking names at life” strategy. Then, my baby got a fever and a rash — hand, foot, and mouth disease. Then, I got it. Then, my husband got it. For 10 days we were walled up in our house like lepers — I even considered putting a sign on our door that says, “We have the fever — stay away”, but I decided against it because I didn’t want to scare off the pizza delivery guy.
Nothing got done. Dishes were piled. Clothes soiled. Hair in a rat’s nest. Deadlines missed. Zero shits given.
Sometimes we want to breastfeed, but we can’t for a myriad of legitimate reasons. Sometimes we live in a Lysol-covered bunker to keep illness from our children, and they all get nasty colds anyway. Life will be life, so I just try to chill and roll with the punches. The deadlines will be met eventually, so whatever.
4. Our children are their own people.
As much as it pains me to say this, my baby isn’t an aspect of myself. She may have my eyes, but she doesn’t share my body and soul. Ok, right now she’s breastfeeding, so I’m pretty much sharing my body around the clock, but you get my point. Although we will always be intertwined and connected with an invisible string because of our bond and love, she is her own independent person, with her own purpose and destiny. A unique path just for her. In order for her to live fully, she’ll have to make her own mistakes and learn from obstacles, hurts, and trauma.
I think it can be easy for us to parent as if we are trying to guide a younger version of ourselves. Of course we should do our best to help them avoid devastating mistakes, but can we take the pressure off just a little?
Assuming we love our children, never abuse, and do everything we can to care for their needs, we can also assume we’re going to blow it a few times. Maybe we won’t be paying attention to their important story. Maybe they’ll witness a burst of road rage. Maybe their one birthday party will be a bit of let down because of circumstances out of our control. And you know what? They’ll forgive us. Just as their actions and mistakes are a part of their destiny, even our behaviors and mistakes are a part of their destiny.
Imperfect people make mistakes. We might as well expect it, do better next time, and turn on Netflix.
5. In the end, so few things actually matter it’s ridiculous (and slightly depressing).
In the end, I’ve been told we’ll remember the love, the snuggles, the laughter, the joy, the loyalty, the triumph, and the healing. As we panic over the little things of even less consequence, all the good, soul nourishing moments slide on by, barely noticed.
The other day, I purged my closet. I have a hard time letting go of clothes, because I think one day I’ll wear it. Maybe it will fit better when I lose 10 pounds, perhaps one day boot cut jeans paired with Doc Martens will come back in fashion — I mean, I don’t know — I’m not an oracle! My point, and I do have one: what if we purged ourselves of expectations like we do our closets? Let go of perfectionism? Let go of guilt and things we thought were under our control but really weren’t? What if we stripped down to the essentials, felt a little lighter, and only kept what makes us feel good?
It feels ridiculous to write about the most miraculous thing to happen to me — the birth of my baby — and try to make a convincing argument it’s no big whoop. It is a big whoop. The biggest whoop. But what I’m hoping for, praying for all of us, is a little elbow room. A little grace. More laughter. Less white knuckles, more roll off the shoulders. Less fear, more celebration. A few more shoulder shrugs and less taps on the panic button. Is that too much to ask?
I hope not. Now if you’ll excuse me, my baby’s getting into the dog food.More On