I woke up this morning to a pudgy face sharing my pillow.
Just last night, a friend and I wondered aloud to each other if we would survive our babies starting Kindergarten.
The obvious answer is no.
The baby of the family should not be permitted to grow up.
In like three minutes.
With my first born, every new phase is exciting but also beyond nerve wrecking. With my second, it's mostly just exciting. With my third, each stage feels comforting and natural. With my baby (who hasn't been a baby for quite some time), it's the end. The baby closes every chapter.
Some chapters I am happy to close (potty training, I am looking at you.) Other chapters, not so much.
Feeling my baby kick for the first time. The smell of a newborn. The belly laughter of a toddler. The most precious voice of a preschooler. Those are the best.
The little years are the sweetest of years. Impossibly hard, to be sure. But with the little years almost completely behind me, I would give nearly anything to do them all over again. Except the lack of sleep and engorged boobs.
That is the weird thing about life. When you're living out the dailyness of it all, it is hard to enjoy it. It is hard to enjoy the toddler cuteness when you have a screaming infant. The cute voice of a preschooler is not so cute when you haven't slept in a week and he is asking question #4,328 of the morning.
But when you're closing the chapter, all that remains is the good. Sure, I can recall the terrible. I can remember barfing 25 times a day while pregnant (though I am prone to exaggerating, that is a factual number). I can remember being peed on, pooped on, and barfed on. (I am sensing a barfing theme.) While I can intellectually recall the grosser, uglier parts of the little years, I have mostly blocked it out.
Which is my point. (And you thought my point was to reduce you to a puddle of tears.)
You are too hard on yourself.
Just as you blocked out the time your precious little spawn painted with poop, shoving it in every crevice possible...your spawn blocked out the time you temporarily turned into a raging psychotic version of yourself.
The beauty and redemption of the human mind is that we tend to forget most things.
(We don't forget everything, of course. And I do not want to minimize the real and lasting wounds of abuse, neglect, and pain worse than can be imagined. While that is an important conversation, that is not what I am addressing here.)
You are a mom who loves and adores your children. But even the best of moms will not love perfectly.
You will speak ugly words. You will raise your voice to a level you previously thought impossible. You will be ashamed for how you acted.
Contrary to what the 70's taught us, love means having to say you're sorry. A lot.
You are going to blow it a million times between now and the day you die. Maybe two million.
To be human is to mess up. To be a parent is to mess up every five minutes. Ten, if you're hiding in the bathroom.
If failure and mistakes are a part of the human experience, why do we berate ourselves for every little mistake we make while doing literally the hardest job in the world?
We applaud Thomas Edison for the 1,000 failed attempts at the lightbulb, but when our children announce to the PTA board how much they enjoyed their McDonald's dinner (which is not even an actual failure)...the Happy Meal somehow becomes a scarlet letter of shame.
I am thankful for light. Your children are thankful they're fed. And happy to get a break from the kale we are all pretending to like.
It breaks my heart to see you sacrifice so much for your child, give all you have to the task of raising your cuties, and spend every waking moment with the five and under crowd...only to berate yourself constantly and believe you aren't doing a good job.
Stop being so hard on yourself.
Do you love your child beyond any love you've ever known? Does your child have a home where he is safe and adored? Did you feed her today? Then stop telling yourself you're a terrible mom. (You aren't.)
Did you lose your crap this morning? Has it been awhile since your kid ate a vegetable? Did you silently (or not-so-silently) wish your child would shut up for three whole minutes? Did you linger at the grocery store a little longer, just to avoid having to go home to those people who call you Mom? Congrats. You're normal. And you're still a good mom. An awesome mom, actually.
If I could go back in time, knowing what I know now, I would not have spent so much time telling myself how much I sucked at this mom thing. I would not have cried so many tears of shame over the mistakes I made. I would not have let myself be robbed of the joy of the little years with the fear that every wrongdoing on my part would mean future therapy on their part.
Because, in spite of the thousands of mistakes I've made over the years, my kids are turning out just fine. Not perfect. Not even close. But they're doing just fine. And I think their therapy will be minimal.
My daughter plans the most extraordinary parties...even though she's only ever known mediocre birthdays. My son chooses salads over burgers...even though I forget to serve veggies with dinner on the regular. My other son chooses burgers over salads...but he is healthy and has a killer sense of humor. My last son chooses to eat his boogers...whatever, man. Saves on groceries. The fact that I am even using food as example of mom failure is the only proof you need that we are living in a time where the standards of raising kids are impossibly high and beyond ridiculous.
We create imaginary worlds where all of the other moms are doing it all well...then compare our ugliest self to that pretend world...and conclude that we are terrible.
I think it's time to take this crazy train back to the station...recalibrate what it means to be an awesome mom (spoiler alert: you are already one!)...stop being so dang hard on ourselves...and enjoy the beauty and crazy and amazingness of raising incredible children.
And, while we're at it, let's leave the kale at the station. Because that crap is gross.