Wanted to write some epically uplifting piece applauding our efforts as parents.
I thought maybe I could distill the side-splitting laughter, heart-wrenching helplessness, soul-shimmering hope, sleepless nights, kitchen fights, shining lights, and making the wrongs right, that we all do as parents into a few hundred words.
No fucking way.
Each journey is unique and harrowing in every single possible permutation between parent and child. It has been said countless times, that observations of humanity seem to point to the fact we are all just toiling through our existences, trying to find purpose and put to rest our mommy and daddy issues. Those issues run in both directions. Parents feel as much anguish for their roles in their kids’ lives as children feel for existing. It is the great circle of life.
As with most things , We are bound to try incredibly hard to face the tough stuff head on. Realizing that our kids are bound to be terrifically traumatized by the clusterfuck they were handed as a mother, we make huge and valiant efforts to face the demons (separate and combined) head on. We talk. We real talk. Our kids have always been entitled to their feelings, opinions, fears and focus. We have enlisted outside help and scaffolding in the form of counselors, testing, trial and error, and everyone in this home is wholly encouraged to lay their shit bare and be the broken and beautiful mess that they are.
This is not the most common mothering tactic as far as I can tell, and I know I get judged to the extreme as a demon or a queen, and plenty of things in between for the way I do things. I judge people too, despite actively putting in efforts not to. There seems to be a fairly big element of being (or trying to appear at least) buttoned up with a certain amount of spit and polish in most families.
I scroll through the highlights reels of social media and compare myself to everyone else.
We wear and share our struggles as a family and as individuals. Tears and tantrums are common inside our walls, as are hugs and hope and heaped piles of rolling laughter. I am the sweary, scary, and incredibly affectionate and care-y mom. I stopped trying to be anything else a long time ago. But I still look at other parents who are super outdoorsy, or sit quietly and read alongside their little carbon copy introvert offspring and I yearn for what I do not have. I see the seemingly contented and clearly calm domestic goddesses at the school gate, with their gluten free crunchy granola kids and glowing smiles.
Every single mother (and father) I bump into at any kid event terrifies me until I actually talk to them. Like, really talk to them. Every time I do, I find out that they are just as scared of me as I am of them, and we are all struggling and second guessing ourselves. Well, nearly all of us. There are also genuinely creepy and congnitively dissonant folks who think their kids are perfect, owing, in no small part, to their parenting planning and pinache. Fuck those smug bastards.
Give me broken, give me bold. Give me terrified and truths that are seldom told. Because no matter how shiny a veneer any of us attempt to keep up, we are all complicated and spend a good portion of our parenting journey out of our depth. We owe it to ourselves and each other to curb the judgement and kick up the kindess a notch or 11. Inwardly and outwardly, be kinder to ourselves and our peers.
You are already enough, and can and will be a huge source of hope and safety to your children. You are not expected to be perfect, just present. You are infinitely important to your kids, and I’d hazard a guess you rarely feel like you are.
When I am restless and running and see contented home bodies feathering their nests and looking their best across social media, I stare harshly back at my reflection in the airplane window as I skip off to escape as I have done countless times before. This mother’s day I’m dedicating myself to being more present, and I have canned countless opportunities and cancelled nearly all my extended jaunt and journeys to face my family as we transition into our next chapter.
Running away served me for a while, but now, I get home, and my kids feel complete as the rhythm of our comfortable chaos resumes. I chose to have children and choose to correct the trajectory I’ve been on because I know that’s the right thing to do.
You are the kind of mother (or father, and in some cases mother and father) you are and that is so incredibly enough for your kids. Even though chances are quite good that you expend a great deal of time and effort trying to be what you think you need to be or listening to too many opinions from people who do not know shit about your situation. Your kids want you. Happy, healthy, present, mentally strong, you. They don’t need micro-scheduling or grand gestures of parenting perfection. As far as I can tell, what most kids want, is the same as what everyone wants, to feel connected and enough.
So, I will end this less than uplifting blog with a deliciously dark and confronting poem by one of the most masterful observers or the human condition, Philip Larkin.
So go forth and fuck things up, the is no salve for the pains of parenting and imperfection. There are no simple answers, and we all fuck up. So do your best, remember to get some rest, and carry on.