Do you get as annoyed as I do with that tired old mantra to just “Do your best”?
Do my best?
What if my best is a half-hearted, sleep deprived, muddled grasp at reality, at sanity, at getting the lunches packed? What if my best is cheese sticks and goldfish crackers, wrinkled clothes and mismatched socks, cereal for breakfast every day? What if my best means yelling at the kids when I should be teaching them? If it means I haven’t exercised in years? If it means I sometimes neglect friends, husband or family, because I’m too preoccupied, too tired, too busy with self-imposed business? What if it means I forget friends’ birthdays and make chicken nuggets for dinner even though I know perfectly well how to cook a decent meal?
I should just keep doing all that, then?
Really….’cause I was sort of hoping that could change someday, that maybe in the future, at some unforeseen and impossible day, I would do just a little better. Yes, better than this current mediocre mess some might call “my best.”
But what if this, as they say, is as good as it gets?
Here’s a revolutionary idea: let’s pause, and instead of taking stock of our flaws and the things we aren’t doing “right,” let’s remind ourselves of what we ARE doing well. On the days I’ve actually turned things around like this, I’ve felt pretty good about the “job I am doing,” a.k.a. mothering. For instance, the first day of summer was a mess of a day — the kids woke me up instead of the other way around (no time to get coffee first), the house was a disaster, with piles of unfolded laundry as yet untended. The kids were so bored while I put together shopping lists and returned phone calls that the oldest smashed her toes on a piece of furniture and limped around the house, and our son spent the better part of the day hitting his sisters and getting mad at various things, including a) me and b) nothing at all. But for about four magical minutes, they danced around in the rain outside with their very own kid umbrellas and were happy. They actually got a bath that night too. I’m calling it a good day, so there.
It works on a larger scale too — banish your own guilt as you follow along:
-Our kids all love books, including our 3-year-old son with Down syndrome.
-Our kids all love each other. (Give it time, they are still young.)
-They go to bed each night with their comfy blankets and pillows and loveys and get up in the morning. In between, they mostly sleep.
-They eat food and grow and they have lots of clothes to wear.
-They liked school and made friends.
-They watch TV, sometimes a lot, and their heads have not exploded yet.
Most of us parents, especially mothers, are always trying to live up to an imagined ideal — I don’t think any of us are aiming to be perfect, but just to get to the point where we feel somewhat organized and in control of our lives, our kids, our home, our jobs; even that can be elusive. If we keep focusing on the minutiae, we’ll never realize how far we’ve come. Keep working on the small details, every day, but to see how you’re really doing, look at the big picture. By that measure, there is no need for perfection and nothing to control. Nothing is more perfect than having your little son with special needs wave at you proudly from across the room and say “Mommy” at his end-of-year party at his big bad public school (which we love, and his particular classroom is small and cozy). He was so proud and his smile filled his face. We blew kisses back and forth for a few minutes, and time stood still for just a little while.