Me and N

I Love You Just The Way You Are, Mama

Me and N
One lucky mama.

A few weeks ago, I was cranky. My cold had just begun, and I’m definitely not getting enough sleep with the baby. I was snappy and unfair to my family. However understandable my irritability might be, I hate when I react without kindness, but with my tolerance levels so low for normal and slightly annoying behaviors, the snide remarks and unreasonable expectations just kept popping out of my mouth.

At bedtime, I said to my 5-year-old: Mama’s been pretty cranky this week.
She replied: Yeah.
Me: I’m sorry. I haven’t been feeling well, but I don’t like when I behave like that. {then I smiled} We need to exchange this Mama for the non-cranky version.
N {holding my face very seriously}: No! I would never want a different version of you, Mama, even cranky.

I was expecting her to laugh and agree. When I had spent the week beating myself up over my inability to be the parent I want to be, I’m not sure I can explain what it felt like to be told that I am enough just as I am — the good and the cranky — by one of the little people about whom I worry I affect the most.

I told her: Thank you! That makes my heart so full.

There’s a big difference between being a good mom and a perfect mom. The latter doesn’t exist, and I can make myself crazy trying to be an ALWAYS: always calm, always patient, always prepared. In fact, I am probably setting a bad example by holding myself to unreasonable expectations. My kids need to see what adults do when they forget an appointment once in awhile or leave the snacks at home. My kids need to know how to apologize and shift gears when they are cranky or overwhelmed or frustrated. Children (and adults) also need to accept that some weeks are just tough weeks, and I guess, that week, I taught by example.

Obviously, as the parent, I have so much power in this relationship that I have to hold myself to high standards. My kids are dependent on me for everything from food and shelter to love and encouragement. I want our home to be their safe haven. I want them to think of their parents any time they are sad or lonely and know they have two adults who always believe them and always love them no matter what. But my daughter reminded me that I don’t need to be perfect to provide everything they deserve. In fact, some of the best life lessons will come from my failures rather than my successes.

Alex Iwashyna

Alex Iwashyna went from a B.A. in philosophy to an M.D. to a SAHM, poet and writer by 30. She spends most of her writing time on LateEnough.com, a humor blog (except when it's serious) about her husband fighting zombies, awkward attempts at friendship, and dancing like everyone is watching. She also has a soft spot for culture, politics, and rude Southern people who offend her Yankee sensibilities. She parents 2 elementary-aged children, 1 foster baby, 3 cats, and 1 puppy, who are all Southern but not rude. Yet.

6 thoughts on “I Love You Just The Way You Are, Mama

  1. I love this, especially the last paragraph, where you’ve managed to (rather brilliantly, I think) remind parents to forgive ourselves for our shortcomings without absolving us of (awesome) responsibility as caregivers. Thank you. I needed this.

  2. What a little love you have! I have to remind myself of the same thing with the consolation the more imperfect they see me the shorter the distance from some imagined parental pedestal I have to fall.

  3. I think that, too, sometimes, that trying to always be calm and careful isn’t really the best way to show them it’s ok to have bad days. You’re raising an empathetic little person 🙂

  4. Alex,

    I love this! There is no such thing as perfect parenting, and those less than perfect moments is actually really great for development. We learn as much from or children as they do from us. Allowing ourselves to have authentic and challenging moments tells our children that we also accept them in their less than perfect moments, and that it’s really okay to be authentic and have big emotions sometimes.

  5. I really needed this today. I work from home and half of my schedule is when she is at home, after school. Daddy is not always there to act as a buffer to distract her from coming in to my office when I’m on the phone with a customer. We have a rule that she can come into the office to hang out (quietly!) but yesterday, she wanted to make a sign for her dad to congratulate him for a gaming accomplishment. Which meant she needed me, not him, for spelling help. My reaction was not as calm as I would have preferred. I had to explain to her later that jumping up and down and shoving paper in my face is not acceptable behavior when I’m working. She’s 5, so we are still working on it. And yeah, when I ask her if she wants me to work outside the house and she can go to “after care” with her friends after school, the answer is a definite NO. She would rather have cranky, distracted mommy.

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