Parenting With Authenticity, Not Perfection

I wholeheartedly believe in authenticity on social media. Presenting your life as perfect creates an incredibly unhealthy world and an unhealthy (and unable to be supported) you. 

To that end: I often hear “you’re such a good mom” because of the pictures I post and the stories I tell on Facebook.

So, you should also know this morning I raged at my children. Over essentially nothing (but my exhaustion, annoyance, and my misplaced feelings of parental privilege). Sick and tired of fights, screaming, the endless not listening (some age appropriate, some brought on by my disconnect as of late), I made my two-year-old cry-on purpose. I sent my four-year-old to her room. When she told me she didn’t like being in her room, I responded before I thought, before I could stop myself, I said probably the worst thing I have ever or will ever say to either of them (God willing). I told her, “yeah, well, half the time I don’t even like being a mom.”

And my world got so quiet. I watched her blink slowly at me as she exhaled. It wasn’t, of course, quiet. Violet was still screaming and Mabel began reacting, and noise completely surrounded me but inside I crumbled. And so I retreated. For two minutes I stepped away and I breathed. And then, I re-emerged. 

I gathered my kids on a bed. We talked about it. Their feelings first. Violet, the younger, was sad and scared. Mommy was sorry. She should never make her voice that big and scary, can I snuggle you? She settled to nursing and soon all was well. Mabel, the eldest, no stranger to my odd disconnects over the years, seemed pleased it’s been so long since the last one. I shook my head, it still doesn’t make it okay. We talked about growth and change and how it’s slow but hopeful, but how a person should be held to their highest standard. She said “best friends get mad at each other sometimes and maybe I yell because I love her?” I thought for sure I might die. “No. No, Mabel. No one yells because they love you. Yelling is never the right choice unless you are in danger.” The agony of choices too late to change; the hope of a long future yet to go.

We talked about those awful, awful words and how nothing could be more untrue. How I love being her mother more than anything and sometimes very angry people say very dumb things. Did she understand? She had some questions, but she seemed secure in the knowledge that a slip had been made. 

We decided a person who wanted to change often changes best with consequences, with help from people who love them. And how, if she wanted to (and only if she wanted to, because I didn’t want her feeling responsible for my actions or to blame if they went wrong), she could be a part of my process to growth. She liked the idea. And so, in the future, unless Mabel is far away and I need to yell to her, if I raise my voice then, after I am calm, she is empowered to say, “Mommy, I need to take your phone now, you broke a rule.” And I’ll hand it over, we’ll set the timer for two hours and she’ll put my phone away.

And, finally we snuggled together, the three of us on the bed and Mabel volunteered one of the family traditions I’d started a couple of years ago for when days are going bad – the “do over.” It means that once the fight has been had, and after the discussion and patching up has happened, you can call a “do-over”, a mulligan. Wipe the slate clean and begin the whole day fresh and new, as if it never happened. We love the do-over in this house and often celebrate it with something fun, like a dance party or a craft or a nature walk. 

Why am I telling you this? Some of you are very likely judging me harshly and feeling awful for my (well moved on and happily playing) children now. I have two reasons for telling you:

1. I AM a great mom. This doesn’t change that. My brain and heart sometimes wants to tell me it does (sometimes I believe it). It is not perfection that makes you a successful and good parent, it is how you recover when you do fail….because you will. Can you say sorry? Are you humble? Can you change? Can your children see and help you change?

2. The pressure to be a perfect mom is bullshit and I’m opting out. People are edifying the wrong thing. Instagram and Facebook pictures lie. I assure you, as a mother, 1/2 of them are taken in the middle of an argument.
Peace fellow mamas and papas. For as long as you can manage it. And then as soon as you can get back to it again.

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