the grades we give ourselves

8:49 AM

As I lay in bed writing this tonight I am consciously averting my eyes from the mess all around me. An empty milk truck next to my nightstand, a day old diaper on my nightstand, bags and socks and dirty clothes. The kitchen sink is full of dishes and half eaten food, the living room is a land mine covered in tiny toys that I will probably step on in the middle of the night while getting my nightly glass of water. In the refrigerator sit two lonely steaks that were never cooked and there are take-out boxes on the dinner table. Bedtime was a fight because we were selfish and lazy and kept Birdie out too late (she missed her beloved nightly bath, shame on us).
That's the wreckage, so to speak. But the thing is what this doesn't show is that time this afternoon when she cuddled up in bed next to me while I looked at houses and fed me blueberries while I fed her cheddar bunnies. It doesn't show the time we colored together on the bathroom floor while I was attempting to do my hair. Or the way she "read" her books to me. Or the way she stole the show at dinner, making friends with every single table around us by collecting tortilla chips like a squirrel at a park. And it doesn't show the pure glee this child experienced over ice cream after dinner and getting to chase the birds, all the while globs of ice cream dripping down her arm. But why is it that this is not what I fixate on at the end of the day??
I've been wanting to read All Joy and No Fun by Jennifer Senior and my interest was especially piqued when I read in a review that she discusses the way men end up enjoying parenting more partly due to the less stringent expectations they place on themselves. That makes so much sense to me. In a culture that's so wrapped up in goals, accomplishments, lists, accolades and advice it's easy to turn parenting into the most draconically graded assignment you've ever had. And of course we always find ourselves coming up short. The to do lists on my notepad always look tidy and doable but the never ending ones in my head are utterly ridiculous. Every morning I wake up with a laundry list of things I desire to accomplish that day and when I predictably fail at more than half of them I instinctively crumple up that day and throw it away.
And how sad is that? When did it become about tidiness, timeliness, rightness, perfection and so on and so forth? So I baked cookies instead of making an actual dinner as I had planned? Is that really that terrible especially considering how much fun Birdie had helping me? So the peonies I planned on displaying in our sparkling home once back from vacation instead sit on a table smeared with yogurt and covered in mail and unpacked groceries? Does that make them any less pretty? Does the fact that I didn't check off every box, make every person happy and solve all the problems make this day any less wonderful?
I know in my heart the answer is no but why does my head convince me of the opposite all too often? I think the best and biggest lesson being a parent is teaching me is to let go. To grade myself with a little more grace. To know the difference between perfect and good. And to know that smiles and hugs are worth so much more than clean floors and done dishes when it's all said and done.
This post is brought to you by sitting in front of my computer late at night with so many thoughts floating about. Perhaps tomorrow I won't make such big plans for myself and who knows maybe I'll actually end up enjoying it even more???

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3 notes

  1. You are awesome, I love this post! You are so right, I struggle with this all the time, and am constantly reminding myself to adjust my perspective. I can have years of a clean, well-decorated home, a flourishing weed-free garden, beautiful home cooked meals, crafty projects, time for reading and relaxing. All that is ahead of me, but what I have right now is a chaotic, busy life with a toddler, while working full time at 8 months pregnant. The mess is there, driving me crazy, but I have to live with it. Accept it. Focus on the important things, the fleeting things. I spend all my time at home with my boy, since I have to be away at work much of the day. Housework gets neglected. That's life! Messy, real, beautiful, hard.

    You're doing a great job, mama!

    1. Isn't it weird that everyone seems to experience the same thing but still we stress ourselves with trying to be perfect, when nobody else seems to be either? I mean, who really has a nicely decorated and clean home along with groomed and well behaved kids? Only those people who are featured in home stories . And probably only for the time the pictures are taken. :-D How can it be possible that we compare ourselves with them? Have a nice (and lazy) weekend everyone... ;-)

  2. You are so right. It is the hardest thing, isn´t it? I have been fighting for years now this feeling of failure when I look at the 3-4 baskets of clean but unfolded laundry, the really disgusting space under the kitchen table or the piles of whatever (toys, papers, unfinished projects) that seem to grow everywhere. And I totally forget, that I work full time or that we spend every minute outside in parks and on playgrounds if it´s not pouring (how can I get things done, if I´m just never at home really?). We do the best we can. We know, we did it, laundry piles, dirty floors and all, when the kids, as we take them to bed, say: "Today was great!" ;-) I liked this post. You really speak my mind sometimes.


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