They placed him in my arms, and I looked him over a million times with a sense of wonder I had never felt before. There he was. The one I carried, adored, and worried over for 9 months. He was perfect. He had perfectly wild black hair that stood up on all ends and was as soft as anything I had ever felt before. He had a perfectly little squashed face that showed that being the first to make the journey down the birth canal involved some serious hard work and elbow grease. He had ten fingers and ten toes and I was wrapped around them all in a way that I never anticipated or was prepared for.
He was perfect. His life would be every bit as perfect as he was if I had anything to do with it.
And then he grew.
And it turns out he wasn’t actually perfect.
Yup. My sweet angel baby boy was just as human as the rest of us, and that realization can sometimes hit you like a ton of bricks. Some of us figure this fact out about our children much sooner than others. Some of us get the babies who won’t latch or won’t sleep or scream for 3-6 hours every afternoon for some unknown reason, and we’re left thinking…what is wrong with my baby?! Why did my genes produce this little person designed to bring me down?! Others of us are still marching along with agreeable toddlers who have slept through the night since they were 4 weeks old and love vegetables and sharing, BUT every single parent has the day when they see it. The moment that you realize the angel that was placed in your arms is in fact just a human with real-life strengths and real-life faults behind those incredibly delicious dimples.
It can be a hard moment as we transition from total adoration of our children to occasional shock and horror at their behaviors or odd quirks. It can make us feel uncomfortable or exasperated or super sad that the honeymoon is over, but let me say this as you stumble through the transition: they are not perfect, Mama, and neither are you. The good news is, that’s exactly how it should be.
I have talked to so many friends recently who were feeling exhausted and down and possibly a little hopeless as they learned to deal with the not-so-perfect moments. I’ve seen the concern in their eyes as they’ve verbalized the behaviors and held their breaths to see what the reaction would be to their child’s latest quirk. I’ve heard the frustration in their voices as they confessed their latest failed attempts to over-power problem behaviors with yelling and power struggles.
And what I say to them, I want to say to you, too.
They are ok, and so are you, Mama.
My oldest child, the one with the wild black new baby hair, is brilliant and creative and seriously as kind-hearted as anyone I have ever known, but he never stops talking. He asks me so many questions and desperately pleads for me to watch every single thing he does from the moment he wakes up until the moment he goes to sleep. Some days I have on my super mom cape, and I am so patient and supportive of him. And some days…well some days, I sort of snap and yell “I can’t just stand around and watch every single thing you do!! I have a life!!”
I’m not getting it right all the time and neither are they and neither are you, but we’re all learning the beauty of unconditional love. We’re all learning that what’s far better than perfection is watching talents blossom and interests take flight, and we’re all tackling the life long battle of overcoming the not-so-pretty parts of ourselves. You’re not going to get this mom thing right every day, but you know what teaches a child to be a great person? A mom who can look them right in the eye and say, “I really screwed that up, didn’t I? I’m sorry for how I reacted. It wasn’t right and I promise to try harder next time,” and then really, actually trying. Because in the grand scheme of things, it’s probably best to learn to apologize and try again, and life tends to give us plenty of opportunities to practice that skill.
So the next time your formerly perfect child shows you they are in fact human, take a deep breath and remember they are just fine. They are just learning to navigate through the difficult moments. They are not broken.
And next time you find yourself revealing your less-than-perfect nature, I hope you give yourself a big ole heap of the same grace you’re extending to them.
Parenting is hard. Perfect parenting is impossible. Perfect kids are a fallacy. So let’s all remember to take those deep, DEEP breaths and adopt the mantra “grace upon grace upon grace.”
You’re perfectly equipped to imperfectly tackle raising this imperfect person, and that’s just the way it should be. We’re all still learning, after all.
Beautiful. Thank you.
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