A repost from February 18, 2010. Because we all need to be reminded that the best way to teach your children about the important things in life is for them to experience living for themselves. How best to teach a child that not-perfect is wonderfully okay then being a not-perfect, but still wonderfully okay, parent? For all of the wonderfully imperfect parents–and people–that I know–perfection only exists in the dictionary, and that is where it should belong. For me, the ability to become a better mother is as simple as just wanting to be one–small efforts also change your world.
Every night, after my kids go to bed, I promise myself that tomorrow I will be a better mother. I fantasize about elaborate craft projects involving tempura paints and craft glue. I research instructions for mixing cement in order to make handprint stepping stones, thus forever immortalizing the smallness of their hands and feet. I consider my reactions, rewriting my failures into better scenarios for later use. I grieve for the future when I’m no longer the center of their little universe.
I do this at night, after pajamas and snores have replaced their continuous, unrelenting demands.
The part of my brain where logic lives knows that when my two little boys are big boys I won’t remember the frustration. My mind will alter history into a series of cheerful delusions centered on my good intentions rather than the truth of our reality. Someday I will be wistful for the tangible proof of a full and active house—the constant filling of sippy cups and making of snacks; the continuous cycle of washing and putting away laundry; the surprise visits in the middle of the night to soothe bad dreams; and the cacophonous roar of noise.
So the parents of older/grown children keep telling me.
I just can’t put myself that far into the future. Similar to how I never thought I would miss the nonsense that was high school at sixteen, but now, at thirty-three-ish, the memory of skipping class to date the biggest loser in school makes me smile.
If it appears to you that I am flippant about being a parent, well, it’s because I mostly am. Maybe my flippant behavior is the result of watching too many parents taking Every.Single.Thing so damn seriously. On the other hand, maybe it’s because I hardly ever take myself seriously, so why would my parenting behavior be any different? I don’t stop and think about the totality of this “being someone’s mom” thing very often—I’d have a nervous breakdown. Think me a bad parent if it makes you feel better. I find benign ambivalence more a character trait than a character flaw.
Even with all of that, I am still caught off guard when I notice Zach’s metamorphosis from baby to toddler to boy. I know that I will forever see his child’s face, even when looking into the eyes of the man. Add Elliot to the mix and I can see—with certainty—just how those quickly time passes. I must admit a big part of me looks forward to just a little bit more time passing. Painting would be more fun if one of them (Elliot!) wasn’t always eating the brushes.
But it’s those glimpses of how quickly they grow up that prompt my “better mom” plan of attack. Yet almost every morning, when I’ve settled two fights and a series of resulting tantrums on the way to my first cup of coffee, those plans become the personification of the cliche “the path to hell is paved with good intentions.”
And you know what? I’m just going to go ahead, live in my reality, and accept that I will be all Bruce-Springsteen’s-Glory-Days when I’m older. My kids, if I base it on much they demand my constant attention, seem okay with my apparent mediocrity. Actually, I seem pretty okay with it, too.