I’m an okay mom. Sometimes I’m a great mom, sometimes I’m a lousy mom… so I guess that averages out to being an okay mom. But, you know what? I’m okay with that.
I’m not perfect. I’ve never claimed to be perfect, and I try to embrace my imperfection. I try to live in my vulnerability, so that I can be my genuine self. Imperfections are what make us human. They’re what make us unique. But, it’s a funny thing, once you become a parent, suddenly being imperfect doesn’t feel like it’s good enough anymore.
When I’m at work, if I make a mistake, I own up to it and apologize. If I forget to invite someone to a meeting or event, if I slip past a due date, if I am less than prepared for something than I should be… I say so and apologize. I will apologize to someone in a large meeting, if it is something that deserves that acknowledgement. I apologize, learn, and try to do better. I feel totally comfortable letting people know that it was my mistake, that it was unintentional, and that I am sorry.
When it comes to being a mother, I find it much harder to take that same breezy approach. The consequences just seem so much bigger when the mistake is with a little person who is absorbing what’s around them all day long. Those huge consequences feel overwhelming, and that feeling makes it hard to brush off parenting mistakes.
And, the thing is, raising kids, really brings out our imperfections. Even though they are awe-inspiring and beautiful, raising kids is damn hard. They test every one of our flaws. Sometimes, that testing means that we mess up. We mess up over, and over, and over. I mess up so much, but I think that’s okay, cause it makes me an okay mother.
When we have challenging moments, I sometimes look at Maddy and think to myself, “Yes, you are having a difficult time. Truly, this is something that is HARD for you. This is self-preservation, this is not bad behaviour.” I then remind myself that my reaction to the situation has nothing to do with Maddy and everything to do with my own shit.
This line of thinking has taken me to a great place where I can honestly not care that we don’t brush Maddy’s teeth (or wear winter coats, or wear shoes… you get the point). Teeth brushing is hard for Maddy. But, us wanting to force her to brush her teeth? Well, that’s just control issues. Maddy’s refusal to brush her teeth, that’s self-preservation. Choosing to not force it on her – that’s us dealing with our shit and understanding that this is not about us, it’s about her.
One of the things I’ve really been thinking a lot about is how as Maddy gets older, our number one priority is that she can advocate for herself. She can demand accommodations if she needs them. If she doesn’t learn that skill, life is going to be more complicated than it needs to be. But, in order for her to be able to advocate, she has to understand what her strengths and weaknesses are, whether or not they are related to ASD. On top of that, she will have to be comfortable shouting from the rooftops that she’s not perfect.
As a parent, I look at Maddy and believe deep in my soul that her weaknesses are not shameful. They are beautiful. They are unique. Having weaknesses makes her more like her peers than any of her strengths might. So, first and foremost, Maddy must learn that her weaknesses are not shameful, so that she can embrace them and advocate.
In thinking about how we can send Maddy that message, other than providing her with the unconditional love and support that every child deserves, I had an a-ha moment. Of course, Maddy will learn that her weaknesses are not shameful, if we are able to show her that we can embrace our weaknesses and still love ourselves. We are all worthy, weaknesses and all. I don’t know what you’re all thinking, but I think this just might be the best damn thing we can teach our kids!
We have the perfect opportunity, day in and day out, as we mess up as parents. We can acknowledge that we’re not perfect, apologize when needed, and still love ourselves as the imperfect parents we were destined to be. We can forgive ourselves, as many times as we need to. We can let go of the emotional baggage that keeps us questioning our parenting. What a great gift we can give our kids by showing them how we respond to the unexpected, how we manage our weaknesses, how we take responsibility for our behaviour whether intentional or not, and how we forgive and love our imperfect selves.
I’m a mom who doesn’t brush her kid’s teeth. I’m a mom who loses patience, even when her child is in an anxious and vulnerable place. I’m a mom who lets her kid go outside in the coldest of cold weather underdressed. I’m a mom who says no when I shouldn’t. I’m a mom who gives up and takes the easy way when I have nothing left to give.
I’m an okay mom. Okay, there… I said it.