Finding Purpose

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“Listen to me. You HAVE to decide what you believe to be the most important work in the world and then you have to DO THAT WORK. Because THIS is what happens. THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS. God shows up.”- Glennon Doyle- Melton

I am still recovering from yesterday’s drama. As a day among many other similar days, it still wasn’t the best example of my most shining moment as a parent. I might have been a bit too impatient- MIGHT have lost my cool and run out of a room. I might have had a mini adult tantrum.

In short, I might have failed a bit as a parent.

And so, when today arrived new and shining, I did what I always do. As daybreak dawned bright and new, I woke to the promise of another try. Another chance. A fresh beginning. I got up and faced the challenge.

I showed up.

This is important to remember: even after apologies have been offered and forgiveness is finally on the table, sometimes things don’t always work out perfectly- that is something I am learning.

But here’s what else I know to be true.

When we begin again and life still isn’t perfectly worked out- all the kinks haven’t been smoothed and all the creases haven’t been folded- sometimes a little bit of heaven shines through anyway and we are reminded of our purpose. Reminded why we are here and why we are still doing what we’re doing.

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I walk into the school with the buses already lining up beside me, and I met immediately with a little girl whom I know and care for greatly. She and I- we just connect. I sense immediately that this little girl, like me, has started the day off with a bit of apprehension- maybe even a bit of fear: I can just feel it. And it doesn’t take very long for both of us to get to the heart of the matter, she and I. Talking about our STUFF, the things that weigh us down. She’s only eight, but she is oh, so wise. And I feel tears forming and love rising inside of me, even as I listen to her. I remind myself yet again: we are all in this together.

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I walk into the office, and I find him sharing his little heart with anyone that will listen. And I feel compelled to leave my comfortable cocoon- the little space I am occupying this moment…leave it, so as to tell him that I have been there too- that I have stuff that holds me down, binds me up inside. I am not perfect either, Little Man. And as I tell him something that makes him laugh, I feel inside of me a weight lifting. It’s like my soul was a leaden balloon and he has just lifted a release to let it fly anyway. That laughter we share is freeing. I am being lifted once again by an eight-year old.

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I stand in the hallway readying children for the buses. A little boy runs into my room and hands me a small green zombie head. “Mrs. Gard, I just want to give this to you,” he says exuberantly. I take the small offering, turning it over in my hand. “Why me?” I ask inquisitively.

“Because,” he says ( a shining light in his eyes), “You always let me come into your room.

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I line up my own little class for the buses, and one of my dear little four turns his head in my direction. Before he makes the turn in the hallway to move out of my sight, he looks back at me and says, “Mrs. Gard, I love you!”

So this was my day…today.

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We must all find our purpose in this life and that purpose must compel us to move forward, doing what we can and what we are able so as to live out our calling.

Someone recently told me that they didn’t know what their purpose was. This is hard, challenging work- figuring out our purpose. It is stretching, complicated stuff. And it always leaves us changed, different than we were before.

I think part of my purpose is to care about people. It is why I am here. And I find that the more I care, the more I am able to care. The more able I am to care, the better I get at it. The better I get at it, the more I feel challenged by it. The more challenged I am by this whole endeavor, the more soul-searching I must do to re-confirm that where I am RIGHT NOW is where I need to be.

I am where God has placed me to be in the larger scheme of life.

But I know all too well: caring for people is frustrating work. It is hard. And it often leaves us feeling a bit stripped of resources. A bit broken and vulnerable. But when we do care, in honest, authentic, open ways, we allow for opportunity so that others can then see us for who we really are, giving them hope in the process.

Caring is like that: it is attentive, connective and relational.

And while there are times when those relationships we nurture leave us raw and open, leave us feeling exposed. There are other times besides when we see growth. For in allowing fragility to act as a bridge for caring, we are then led down different paths and toward new horizons. To new opportunities of care. Led to other people who need our care, even but for a little while before we return our hearts again toward home.

Caring heals us,
From the inside out.

Our calling might be as different as our days are varied. But one thing is sure: we are called to care. And when we care for others, doing what we can in the little ways we are given, God gives us the strength to do the greater work He has for us. One little act of love at a time.

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On Making Mistakes

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It is a late lunch day.

With brunch completed mid-morning, I am now in the process of collecting my thoughts so as to get in a frame of mind for lunch preparations. What to make? I quickly remember that I have everything for homemade pizza, and I call for helpers.

Usually, there is a scramble of girls competing for the counter space. But to my surprise, Son announces that it has been a while since he has made anything with me and that he would like to help. I am pleased- he usually passes on cooking. But since it was a storm day today and school is off, he is feeling particularly generous with his time. I am also secretly delighted that we will have some mother-son time together.

We start to gather our supplies and right away I think to myself ‘back off- let him do this’. I step away for a moment and occupy myself with something on the other side of the sink.

“Ohhh…” I hear him say.

I turn my head and discover that in pouring the flour mixture into the bowl, he has spilled it on the counter, a bit on himself, and then more down the side of the cupboard and onto the rug below where it is collecting in a circular pile. I immediately go into my neat-nik self and rush over, start to cluck- hem and haw. I can hear myself becoming too quickly frustrated at this unexpected mess that I now feel responsible to clean up, and I know where this is headed. Not like I scolded in a mean way- but he knew. I was tense.

“I don’t think I want to do this anymore,” he says to me quietly.

I look up, and watch him turn away. I watch as he walks slowly over to the red corner chair and perches on the edge. We are both on edge now- both literally and figuratively.

And at this juncture, I start to talk to myself:

“Is this what you want- your Son to believe that he isn’t capable of making this pizza? That in making a small mess, he is inconveniencing you? That this minor mess is really worth making an issue over? That this is even something to stress over, tense up about? Do you want to lose this opportunity over a bit of split flour? Give your head a shake, girl.”

I make a choice in that moment. And that choice was an apology. Followed by an explanation.

What I said was this:
“I am sorry that I reacted this way. This is not a big deal. I really want you to make the pizza, and I want you to know that my response wasn’t the right one. Furthermore, I want you to know that when we make mistakes, I know that these are the moments we learn the most. Please don’t think that in spilling the flour it should keep you from making the pizza. I am sorry.”

Sons are so gracious to moms with lots to learn.

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We ended up making that pizza together, and it was an absolute work of art. Son took the better part of an hour to carefully put each topping, each slice of meat on where it suited best. I cannot honestly say I have ever seen a better looking pizza. But more than that, this time of meal preparation was a learning experience for me personally. Because I am starting to realize how very much I benefit from learning about my own mistakes and how I need to find ways to come out a better person for having taken a wrong turn.

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I wish I hadn’t reacted so quickly to the split flour.

But because of my own mistake, I discovered that these are experiences that can help us grow as individuals into more capable, understanding people. We learn from mistakes when we choose to do so, carry forward stronger, more knowledgeable than we were before. And even moms have their moments when the lessons learned are very humbling.

At least they are for me.

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The secret to caring for people

I wake to the lonely sound of freezing rain pelting the window, and it is mere minutes later that a knock is heard at our bedroom door.
“I’m scared of the rain, can I sleep with you?”

I move over to make room. And as she settles in with her pink blankie underneath our warm quilts and Brunswick sheets, I think of how very much I want to protect this Little One. She is vulnerable, needing me. And I am willing to fill the gap. Willing to care.

Care is meant to be responsive. How very much I am realizing this as we deal with outside agencies. Hospitals, staffing at healthcare facilities, schools, public agencies. They are all the same essentially when it comes down to it: systems that, the bigger they get, the more impersonal the interactions seem to be. Yet, the more that care is fundamentally needed.

When I think of my belief in care and the power it holds to transform and change, I realize more and more that its evidence must be seen and its influence must be felt within the relationships we encounter. Those that span the range from the micro to the macro. We all desire to be heard and responded to.  We all long to be cared for in responsive, empathic ways.

How can we learn to care for people- especially for people when they are not especially likeable? People outside our circles of influence that we encounter in day-to-day interactions?  People inside circles of influence that challenge us, defy and oppose at every opportunity?

I think the secret starts with gentleness and a desire to remain open. Open to the possibilities and open to the fact that there are differences. And the secret continues by remaining soft in our approach- being gracious in our interactions; this is the complement to the quality of openness that brings it full circle.

Open arms and grace-filled hearts always lead the way toward love.

Christian philosopher Jean Vanier affirmed his conviction in the power of love to be a transforming force in our lives when he wrote a recent communiqué posted to his website that states simply: “we are all children who need to be loved, to be a source of joy, to live relationships full of joy, through communion and mutual presence” (Vanier, 2015).  Might be never forget that love is kind- and so must care be too.

Reminding ourselves that the people we find the most difficult to like/care for are probably the ones who need it the most is certainly useful in this process of learning to care for difficult people. If we can allow ourselves to see each person we deal with- especially the most difficult ones we deal with- as people who deep down have vulnerable, fragile selves, we can then appreciate that the defenses they have set up and the walls they have built are there for protection. People with walls up are people with fears.

But they are still people nevertheless.

We can learn to care for people even when they come with baggage. Even when they come to relationships both personal and formal with issues and things we don’t understand.  And believe it or not: we can care for people even when they don’t treat us with care.  We can find ways to care for them anyway.

Because the secret to caring for people is first determining that we will care and then finding something within people to care for. From there, the care will grow.

I can smell her hair on the pillow beside me. She smells of everything that seven-year old little girls do- a jumble of all that makes her beautiful and sweet. And my heart is full. Filled with love.

She sleeps peacefully until the morning light- knowing that I care.
Knowing that I always will.

Mostly Enough

I shouldn’t feel this way.  But I do.

In spite of my best efforts, in spite of all I do, all I say and all I strive to be. In spite of how many braids I plait, clothes I fold, rides I provide, meals I make. In spite of how much I take an interest. In spite of how many emails I have sent concerning them, conversations I have struck up because of them. Tears I have shed over them. In spite of the concerts I have attended. Piano lessons I have paid for. Not to mention hockey and skating lessons, soccer and softball fees. In spite of the board games I have played and bike rides I have participated in. In spite of all the times I have lain in bed at night with them in the dark. In spite of every dose of medication I have administered and days I have taken to be home with them.

In spite of everything.

I still don’t always feel I am doing enough.

So I sat with Husband on a Sunday afternoon on the edge of a bridge, lazily watching a river trout jumping in and out of the water, while minnows swam in a school right underneath our toes. I sat watching the breeze gently rustling the river grass while birds flew gracefully overhead. I sat.  On a perfectly beautiful autumn afternoon in the beauty of nature and the perfection of a gorgeous sunny day. And all I could think in those blissful moments that should have brought me peace and tranquility was how inadequate I felt as a mom.

How “not enough” I was as a parent.

No calling to mind of any of the above list could have really convinced me otherwise in that moment and time. I simply felt that I wasn’t doing enough. Being enough. Showing enough.

Felt I wasn’t enough.

And while it seems I have been succumbing to these feelings more and more lately, I don’t always have a reasons for why I do this to myself.  Why this happens. I know the research. I know what this generation is characterized by- indulgence and lenience. It is an age of tolerance and low expectations.  And I know my own story and personality well- I am an overachiever. A perfectionist. And as usual, somewhere deep in my perfectionist psyche, I am punishing myself for inadequacies that I think are there. That I felt others in my family could see and feel as deeply as could I.

My lack of patience. My quick temper. My exhaustion that affects both my mood and my energy level. My frustration. My intolerance. My tendency to speak without thinking carefully through beforehand. All combining to make me feel shame and despair- and added to that, make me even feel less than “not enough”: more like a complete failure.

Since Sunday, I’ve been thinking about these feelings. Ruminating about them in my head, if not even a bit out loud with Husband and my mom in casual conversation. And coincidentally, I happened to come across this little blurb from Jen Hatmaker’s new book tonight as I scanned her blog. Here’s what she had to say about her beliefs about parenting:

Only our overly-critical, overly-involved generation could possibly engineer such carefully curated childhood environments and still declare ourselves failures. We are loving, capable mothers reading the room all wrong.

Can I tell you my goal for my kids? That childhood was mostly good. People, I declare “mostly good” a raging success. If I was mostly patient and they were mostly obedient, great. If we were mostly nurturing and they were mostly well-adjusted, super. Every childhood needs a percentage of lame, boring, aggravating, and tedious. Good grief, life is not a Nickelodeon set. They need something to gripe about one day.

Mostly good is later remembered as “loved and safe.” I know because I now label my childhood “magical” even though my mom slapped me across the face in 7th grade and never bought me Guess jeans and accidentally left me at church numerous times. Mostly is enough.

You are doing a wonderful job. Parenting is mind-numbingly hard and none of us will be perfect at it and all of us will jack a thousand parts of it, and somehow, against all odds, it will still be enough.

Words like cool water on a parched tongue.

Mostly is enough.

And it’s okay to make a few mistakes along the way. In fact, it’s NORMAL.

Tonight, Daughter and I exchanged a few unpleasant words- mostly from my mouth, not hers. And after we got through most of the ugly, the message that cushioned all that had been said was the fact that we both really did love each other.  A lot. I know I sure do, and she tells me the same still, every night. Sometimes we Two have a funny way of showing it, but through it all, that love is constant in spite of the bad bits that tend to color our relationship. It is there, in spite of everything that makes me feel “not enough”.  Not good enough. And thank heavens for that. Because love remains in spite of the misunderstandings, frustrations, clashes and head-butting that sometimes occurs, I can carry on- with the understanding that love will also carry both me and my family through the good, the bad and the ugly. For love is and always will be a constant in this family: even when the storms roll in.  Even when the bullets fly.  It is and will be the foundation on which our family life is built upon. And although we might fight like it is 1999, we still love each other through it all.  We’ve committed to that.

We love each other. And that love, while imperfect, is never mostly enough.

It’s everything.

For All The Nights I’m Not…

A very thoughtful reader wrote me a comment for my helicopter parenting article which made me think once again: the minute we think we know SOMETHING, we come to realize we don’t know anything.

If you haven’t read the article, I write about a near miss for two children on bikes, a story in which I describe myself as a bit of a helicopter parent when it comes to some aspects of our children’s upbringing.  However, that is not me ALL of the time.  I wouldn’t have you to believe I am a saint or some kind of perfect mother.  So just for the record, for all the other nights I am not the helicopter parent, here’s what I’ve been known to be:

Monday evening, September 29th, 2014:

In our house, if Husband is the voice of reason, I am the voice of hysteria.

It is 6:00 p.m., and I am simultaneously cleaning up from supper, emptying the dishwasher and refereeing children’s disputes/meltdowns. Apparently, there is not enough technological bandwidth power to suitably fire up the Save Our Sanity effort in our house tonight (i.e. the computers are not working and too many people are trying to access the limited supply.) All this while I am having my own epic meltdown.

In fact, mine is ten times worse than anyone else’s about five minutes in. If there was a club of Hysterical People Anonymous, I would be president RIGHT NOW. If there were a meeting of that club anywhere- ANYWHERE- within a 500 mile radius right now, I would gladly vacate the premises and walk barefoot to that meeting on a road of hot volcanic gravel, just to escape the fresh torture that is our after-supper witching hour sans Husband.

Ah supper hour. How I oft despise thee!

If there were a meal I would gratefully skip, it would be supper. I know, I know I KNOW- there are so many idyllic ideals surrounding this mealtime that I have read about, pondered upon and dreamed about in my sleep. But PEOPLE. Suppertime was actually made for the simple purpose of tormenting and afflicting otherwise exhausted mothers so that they could quickly lose their minds. Zero to sixty, baby. Honest, cross my heart- this is the really, truly, truthiest truth. I wouldn’t lie.

But just to be sure, let’s play a fun game. True or false… Supper time is a peaceful, relaxing hour when all is well in the world (and children eat all their food and then empty the dishwasher). Ding, ding, ding: FALSE!!!!!! Suppertime is actually an hour of psychosis when mothers (and quite possibly at times FATHERS) haven’t quite lost all their marbles in the long and endless battle to get their kids to come to the supper table- because that’s what supper is for. To finish them off and kill them slowly. Supper is quite simply for the birds. Literally. Or the cats. I ended up giving the cats two platefuls tonight. The birds got some crusts earlier on today. Whatevs.

Husband, bless his heart, (while all this chaos is underway), is driving blissfully unaware in a van without children (AND HOW DID THIS PUZZLING REALITY HAPPEN???), oblivious to his wife’s complete and utter loss of her mental faculties. Ignorance is bliss they say. I’ll fix that. Luckily, he took the cell phone so he will soon be in the loop regarding all things psychotic that his wife has been fully aware of for the exactly two point three seconds that she has LOST HER FLIPPIN’MIND.
I love me some speed dial.

He answers me because he has to. We’ve got BlueTooth- no excuses. It must feel good to say, “Hunny, I am in Summerside right now…what do you want me to do?” when your wife is about ready to crawl through the phone wires. All I have to say is this: thank goodness for that forty-five minute stretch of highway. It gave Someone enough time to take a Sober Second breath before nailing the last spike into her own coffin.

All crazy things must come to an eventual, frantic end. So I eventually calmed down. What goes up must come down. I met Husband coming in the driveway as I was on my way out, (where upon I was sidetracked into investigating the back of the truck where Children had left a bunch of stuff they forgot to take in the house which I found and grumpily carted in myself). I guess the steam must have still been flying out my ears because he cleared a wide berth for me as I marched out the driveway and up the road.

This is my version of running away from home. And you have no idea how many times the after supper walk has saved our marriage. Thirty minutes of sweet, sweet solitude that brings Mother Dearest back to her senses, restores her sense of inner calm and reminds her of all she has and all her family means to her.

It’s all good- and dare I say, even worth it. Even if that means I have to go through it all again tomorrow night.

So, for all the nights I am a helicopter parent, I breathe a prayer of thanks.  And for all the nights I’m not, I’m thankful too.  Every life needs a state of balance in it to remind us of our fragility- to remind us of our humanity.  So for tonight, I will say this prayer of serenity…

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.”

…because that’s all we can be accountable for in a given day.

Enlightened Witnesses

In her book “all about love: new visions”, author bell hooks refers to psychoanalyst Alice Miller’s writing and work. In particular, hooks is taken with Miller’s concept of the “enlightened witnesses” present in the lives of most adults- particularly those of us who experienced pain and needless suffering in childhood. “Enlightened witnesses” are those individuals who have shown a certain kindness, tenderness and concern in the person undergoing difficulty so as to restore that individual’s hope and belief in the good in their life. These witnesses are thus persons who offer “hope, love and guidance to a wounded child in any dysfunctional setting” (hooks, 2000, p. 234). So as to restore belief that the individual has something of worth to live for. Something of value to strive for. And something of significance to show for their life.

Enlightened witnesses can be those who themselves have risen from the depths. Individuals who have overcome great odds and great adversity. Sometimes this is the very thing required to create lasting empathy and feeling. For when we identify, we can extend ourselves that much more.

Of my many enlightened witnesses, Alice was one of the most memorable. My “adopted” mother, she was an elegant woman with immaculate nails and gorgeous ebony skin.  She and her father lived in a neighborhood on the far side of town where they owned a little piece of land that boasted lush flower gardens and a bountiful vegetable garden.  I came to live with Alice when I was seventeen years old.  Our family had to make an unexpected move in my Grade 12 year, and I was not ready to leave my childhood home town in the final year of high school.  The dilemma posed for my parents was this: to allow me to stay in the area and graduate with my friends or to force me to move against my will and thus inflict on me feelings of resentment and anger.  They, with love and open-mindedness, allowed me to stay behind.  The next issue was deciding with whom I would stay.  After exhausting a list of possibilities, we thought of my mother’s dear friend who happened to be unattached to any other familial responsibilities, and the decision was made to send me to live with Alice and her father, Stanley.

Prior to my knowing, Alice had indicated to my mother that she was more than willing to let me live at her house.  However, being that she was a reflective woman, she was mindful that there might be unforeseen concerns on the horizon.  Most obvious of which was that I was an active, vivacious teenager on the go and in need of transportation, food and supervision.  But, a more subtle concern to Alice was the slight issue of my skin colour.  For I was as white as flour paste compared to her beautiful dark skin.  We had different histories, different stories, and different cultural understandings of self and our place in this world.  She expressed to my mother, unbeknownst to me, that she was worried about our differences.  My mother assured her that this was a non-issue in our books.  But still Alice fretted over it. In spite of these concerns, it was decided that Alice was the best fit for my needs.  So I packed my bags, even as my family were unpacking theirs in another province, and settled into a little room on the far side of town where I lived with Alice and her father for the remainder of my final school year.

After Alice and I had been under the same roof for quite some time, we found ourselves one day in the kitchen doing dishes together.  I wiped the wet bowls and plates while she carefully washed.  There was an easy banter between us, when out of the blue, Alice asked me an odd question. “Do you mind staying here?”

“Why?” I asked, looking at her strangely.

“Because we’re Black,” she said pointedly.

“You’re not black,” I replied, looking at her strangely, not knowing what to say, but thinking that option was surely not one of my choices.

“Yes, I am.” she said looking at me square on.  Challenging me with her eyes.  I looked at her as well, and then I shrugged.  Not flippantly, not disrespectfully- just nonchalantly.  I held her gaze and then smiled.  And as soon as I did, something happened.  We both started laughing.  And we laughed hard.   Because truthfully, it did not matter anymore. None of it did.  It didn’t matter that I was white and she was black. I was a teen and she was a middle-aged woman. I was the tenant and she the landlord.  It didn’t matter. We released these differences, and let them wash away as cleanly as the grease on the plates in the sink.

We were simply Alice and Lori after that.  And that was that.

Over the year that I lived with Alice, our relationship became more than just functional.  We became close- fast friends.  And then in time, a deeper relationship developed.  She became, in essence, a surrogate mother to me and continued to be one over the years that followed.  As I graduated from university, and later got married, Alice was there to share my joy.  In time, she made a visit to my home in Prince Edward Island after the birth of my second child.  Our bond continued to solidify over the years, and we remained close in spite of the miles that separated us. She died just after Mother’s Day in 2007 while I was expecting our last child.  It grieves me that my four children never really knew their surrogate grandmother.   She took great interest in the older three during their early years, calling often to find out how everyone was doing.  Each birthday and special holiday was marked by cards and gifts specially selected by Alice for each child according to their interests and preferences.  She had a knack of picking out things that suited the receiver to a T.

Alice’s influence on me over the years has given me pause for reflection, not the least of which, for reflecting on what it means to be a mother.  Although she never had an opportunity to birth and raise children of her own, she certainly was a mother-at-heart to me until she passed on.  To me, Alice epitomizes what a mother truly is: a nurturing caregiver with the attitude to parent those in their protection.  Alice had the desire to be a mother.  She never had the opportunity to have children of her own, and this pained her, I am sure.   But she was everything a mother should be and more. And in my time of need, she was an enlightened witness to my grief of the loss in my life, not the least of which was my childhood home and family. My own mother and father living in another province.  In my heart, I believe that I was part of Alice’s reason for why she was placed here on this earth.  I needed her influence in my life: to challenge me to accept people for who they are, where they are and how they are.  But on a personal level, I just needed her love. And she gave it freely.

She was an enlightened witness- my special angel here on earth: and I am forever grateful for her legacy of love and hope.

Why I Don’t Have To Be An Expert

On Friday afternoon, I held a Mother’s Day tea in my classroom for all mothers of my current students. And it was a lovely tea for all those who were able to attend. Most of the moms came, along with one grandmother.

When we got to the part of the program where I told them I would be reading some answers to questions that students gave me about their mothers, I heard an audible groan go up from the moms. Of course, there was concern about what their child might have said about them, things said which could inevitably bring embarrassment to the given mother (no matter how cute or adorable it might sound when I wrote it down- word-for-word with the intentions of reading it aloud).
I assured them, in not so many words, that there was nothing to be said that would make anyone want the floor to open up and swallow them alive. Although some of the answers were pretty cute, along with their amateur use of grammar at this age.

Isn’t it interesting how concerning it can be when we know our children have expressed their thoughts about us to someone else.

Today, I was standing next to another young mother and she and I laughed about the fact that we are always wondering how our kids can come up with such flattering, complimentary professions of love for us in their cards and notes when what we really wonder is if we’ve scarred them for life with our constant bellowing and nagging. Not to mention our cranky monologues.

Yesterday, the day before Mother’s Day no less, I had an absolute meltdown regarding Some Children Of Mine who for three consecutive days in a row have left me “surprises” in the toilet and forgot to send them to the undergods at the septic level. I never intended to blow a blood vessel…it just gradually progressed to that point without any real warning to either me or them. In about five minutes flat, I went from concerned, compassionate caregiver to crazed psychopath.

There we are few of us crying and a few of us screaming. And those not doing either of those two things were considering ways in which to prematurely disable their hearing by first blowing a hole in their eardrums.

It was not my finest moment as a mother.

And I have thought a bit over the last twenty-four hours about my meltdown, along with the fact of the matter that I am still an amateur at this gig, even after fourteen years of practice. I still could use a handy manual or helpful little nanny to step in and intervene on those days where I have just “HAD ENOUGH”. Which leads me to my next level of thinking: that we are not mothers because of what we do, necessarily. But rather- mothers because of who we are. Added to that fact is this little bit of encouragement: we are not expected to be perfect at this mothering gig in order to make an impact. In order to be effective. In order for our children to love us.

Because it’s okay to mess up. It’s okay to still be a work in progress. To be a wrecking ball at times.

And I often fall into the trap of thinking that in order to take something on- something as monumental and life-changing and all-important as mothering, I ought to at least be a bit of an expert before I begin. Don’t we all do this at times? And we later fall prone to believe, as time goes on, that the more we do this work of mothering, the better we ought to get at it. So that when we do fail and make mistakes, as we are so prone to do, we are left baffled. Wondering how anyone could ever think of us as competent, let alone wondering how our children could ever come up with so many descriptive words to use in the acrostic poetry entitled M-O-T-H-E-R. Words like…

Mesmerizing, memorable and meek.
Optimistic, out-going and organized.
Tolerant, trustworthy and terrific.
Happy, honorable and helpful.
Energetic, effervescent and enthusiastic.
Role-model, realistic and responsive.

If it were up to me to write my own Mother’s Day card, here is what I might come up with on any given day:

Meanie
Over-worked
Truthful
Honest
Exhausted
Real

I think there is a bit of truth in both lists, tbh.

Because to be honest, moms don’t have to be perfect so as to be the perfect-fit for their kids. They don’t have to be mesmerizing to the exclusion of once in a while being viewed as a meanie. Nor do they have to be either always organized to the point that they don’t consider themselves a wee bit overworked.

We are mothers after all. Not saints.

We can be tolerant while brutally truthful.
Happy while still being honest and true to what we see as the obvious.
We can be the enthusiastic cheerleaders our children need us to be, while inside feeling absolutely exhausted and unable to put two coherent thoughts together.
Responsive and real.
At one and the same time.

The truth is, we don’t have to have our act together- have our ducks always lined up in a row. Mama, we have permission to mess up. We are not perfect.
But we are perfectly right for the children we’ve been blessed to love.
And that is why they love us anyway. And why we joyfully can carry on in spite of it all.
Happy Mother’s Day, all!