My family needs a stronger metaphor than “hot mess” to describe a group like us. Don’t get me wrong, as a parent, I mean well, and I usually accomplish the goals I set for myself and my family, but the journey is usually pretty entertaining for any onlookers. I used to marvel at the mothers that seemingly had life all together. I daydreamed about how awesome that would be. They were single handedly giving their children a step up in life simply because they remembered their child’s school snack, when they were to wear pajamas to school, and to brush their daughter’s hair on picture day. In my mind, these children would be successful financially and emotionally because their mothers managed to balance fitness, nutrition, college savings, and family vacations, while I pulled my son out of his 3rd puddle or struggled to help my strong-willed daughter with a splinter. This kind of personal shaming happened quite a bit in my twenties. Now, at 38, I realize I need to stop apologizing for the way my family experiences life, and instead of describing us as a “hot mess”, I have chosen “beautiful mess”. The way I react to our struggles teaches them way more than the way I react to our successes, so I’m thinking: What if we celebrated both?
At this stage in life, seeing mothers and fathers getting it right is a great sight. Instead of using others’ successes as exclamation points on my maternal failures, I learn from each parent I encounter. Now that I’m a seasoned mama, I know that great parenting days do occur for all of us, and I am a big cheerleader for who are out there killing it. Just like my family, I know that their beautiful mess day is on the horizon, and the successful days are like adrenaline injections that help us make it through the tough stuff.
Because there are so many news outlets and social media platforms shaming moms and dads, parenting communities have never been more important. If I didn’t have parents to vent to, laugh with, or celebrate alongside, I still think I’d be apologizing for all that can go wrong in a day of mothering. By looking at our parenting trials and beautiful messes, our children can learn so much more than on our highly successful days. According to Healthy Children, Kenneth Ginsburg, M.D., MS Ed, FAAP, a pediatrician specializing in adolescent medicine at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), there are seven C’s to resiliency in youth: competence, confidence, connection, character, contribution, coping, and control. These seven C’s can be obtained from even one hour of a diaper blow-out or a grocery store tantrum. By brushing off the small stuff and talking through the really rough patches, children develop life skills way better than when things are going swimmingly at home. If we model behavior that encourages resiliency, the kind of grit it takes to persevere and bounce back in life will grow.
As a human in this world of social media sharing, political divisions, and 1,000 different ways to feel “less than” our fellow moms, cheering on other parents sets an intentional example of how to treat others. Our kids watch us and learn from our behaviors. Adults need to work together to get anything productive accomplished, and our children need to watch us supporting each other along the way. The best way to teach is by example.
I regret any time I lost in my early parenting years apologizing for the beautiful mess my family brought to almost every situation. It’s a very freeing feeling to know that my job isn’t to apologize, but it is to navigate them through a prickly world. If we can grow together through rough patches, we sure as heck can celebrate when things are going right. What you put out into the universe is often times what you get back.