The gig is hard and we all have a moment (or 57,000) when we wonder what exactly we are doing…or we have hit a limit or a wall. The thing is, we must keep going and it’s so great we have a truckload of love to see us through. Even so, I need someone to get out and help me shovel some out or find it or carry it some days.

Here are 5 things I need when I am stumbling through parenting:

1. Validate, but don’t hate too much. 

Please, oh please tell me, “Of course you are feeling ______!”  “It IS hard, isn’t it?!”  or whatever it is you can see in my heart…and stand in that place with me… “It IS annoying that they ___________!”,  “I don’t know why he does that, my man/kid does it too….”  BUT I don’t need a whole lot of kid/partner bashing. It just makes me feel bad later because I really do love those people… and while it’s so natural and normal to get sick of each other and express it, I don’t want to live in that place.

2. Tell me a story.

Tell me a story of your experience, failure and triumph,  the funnier and more honest, the better. It doesn’t have to be my same problem and there doesn’t have to be a solution but it makes me feel less alone and more connected.

3. Don’t tell me to read the book, just cliff note it for me! 

Unless it’s DEFCON 4 and you just know that book will save my parenting ass, skip the suggestion and just tell me the best parts of the book. I have zippo time to read but am so open to any wisdom anyone has to offer. Also, remind me of all the development stuff I forgot that actually explains everything and tells me my kid is normal- and that I have forgotten it’s all part of growing and learning for both of us. Or tell me parenting books suck and just follow my intuition.

4. Remind me what you (and I) love about my kid.

Remind me of all the magical parts of my kid… “I know she is driving you crazy now, but remember when…?”. Tell me what you love about her, and stand in my gap for just a minute. Offering to take her for a bit so I can regroup will score you extra “being the village”  friend points. It will also makes me want to climb mountains to do the same for you.

5. Believe in me as a parent.

Tell me to take care of myself, remind me I am and want to be a good parent, be gentle with my mistakes but also believe in me enough to give the gentle nudge to keep going, or own my own shit, or ask a thoughtful question filled with grace. I don’t want to be around other mothers to just complain together, I want to be around people that also make me want to be a better parent.

and when in doubt, bring chocolate (or vodka) and quiet love.

*this little list was inspired by christa, jen b. and jen l. who do this for me day in and day out…much love.

What do you need when all is falling apart in your parenting world? or it’s just been a shitty day with lots of mistakes and love/care attempts?

Two articles, one blog post and 2 podcasts came through my feed and inbox this week, all discussing the subject of mommy guilt. I sort of cringe every time I even hear or see the word mommy coming from anyone but a 3 year old. It feels condescending, who knows why but it does to me.

Pretty much all mothers on the planet want the same thing, to love their children well. Everyone has different interpretations on what that looks like but at the bottom is love. Holding that together with other women, arm in arm, can be super powerful but there are moments when it can become so divisive. We care about this job so deeply, it is primal and anytime primal is part of the equation- shit gets real on every level.

I listened to each story, read each article thinking some of it sounded downright crazy and in the next moment nodding my head along with the mom spilling her guts like we were in church together.  At the root of lots of mommy guilt seems to be that bitch Comparison, she messes with everyone’s head and leaves us all feeling alone.

She rolls in when we are tired, at one fragile moment and BAM! …or even when we don’t see her coming at all. The problem is she asks us to pull apart each part of ourselves and the other mother. We hold tight to the parts comparison wants us to see and not the whole person. It dupes us into thinking we must have it all, be it all to be enough, to love well.

She gives no power to the diversity of our individual parenting superpowers, she gives no power to the gift of our humanity.The truth is we all hold a parenting superpower. …and we need each others.

The blogging mother that does beautiful projects and activities may reign supreme creating memories but may also struggle with unlocking other parts of her kid. …because we all do. Her heart may drop at the idea of her teenage daughter wanting a nose ring. She knows preschoolers, she knows how to set a breath taking table with all the right foods but she may need a sister, a mother to get her through a different stage of growing. And you? You hate to sit on the floor and play with little kids but you can rock a nose ring purchase, and you feel her daughter’s teenage style, you see her rad independence.

Maybe we don’t have to compare our triumph moment to another’s? Maybe we can we all have the one thing that makes us the shit to our kids? …and maybe we can send Jimmy over to the rocket birthday party complete with eco-friendly homemade rocket kits and color coordinated m&m’s and then take her Lenny with us to the park while he climbs to the top of the jungle gym that gives his mother a heart attack. …and smile and cheer for his accomplishment.

And while I tell myself all these lovely things about fighting comparison and the village working together, I am still left with my own haunting inadequacies, the places someone else just can’t pick up my slack, the place where I will fail my children. Because I do, because I will.

This place held such space in my heart because I was already so uncomfortable with my humanity. How do I reconcile THAT?

One spill session to my sister years ago and many more since then revealed some truth I still hold tightly to on bad days.

“Patience, perfect mothers, the ones that never allow their kids to see their humanity raise assholes.” she declared in between the next bite of yogurt.

“WHAT?! What are you talking about?!” I replied.

“They are the sons that forget to call their mothers on her birthday because they have no idea she is a person with her own needs and feelings. They think she’s just fine,  together, they just never knew, she never showed them.” she said.

Every time we screw up or fall short or have to apologize we make space for our kids to see us, to really see us and practice the same compassion and unconditional love we have offered them time and time again. And even greater, my friend Lisa reminds me how our mistakes and all the ways we go about making them right create a safe space for our kids to do the same. Because they do, because they will.

Can we all just have a huge party of our strengths? I’ll send my preschoolers to your activity day and you can send your teenagers to me when they hate you…. we can be in it together in all our goodness, in all our mess.

You are enough, let humanity and tender hearts rule…maybe our kids will too.

jackie boy, (because that’s what we called him back then, he thought it was his actual name for forever), age 6, 2009

With another kid just turned 6, and the realization that our time with little kids is dwindling…I went hunting for memories over at the ole’ PBS Supersisters blog. I came across this little story…and I remembered that night like it was yesterday and reminded myself the truth about trouble (I kinda need it.)…whether we are 6 or 60, we can probably all stand a little more love when we are screwing up.

March 17, 2009

It was late and they were fighting again. Jack knows just how to push Lucy’s buttons to get that shriek out of her. I try to ignore it most of the time because that little girl can sure hold her own. This time however, she cried, it was the hurt feeling cry. It seemed the usual little sister and big brother bother had a little mean thrown into the mix. It was a sign something needed to be said.
“Jack, buddy, I think you’ve reached your limit my friend. I gotta take some Wii time away tomorrow.” I said.

There was a look of instant panic. It’s kind of rare at our house to have an actual punishment, lots of logical consequences but this, the Wii, it was a biggie. He started crying and it soon escalated into a full out tantrum. A tantrum at the age of six. I was kind of stunned. I started questioning my decision a little since the response was so strong and so rare for this kid. I guess maybe it had been building for awhile and a release was in order. There were so many big feelings and that can be tricky sometimes. I wasn’t sure what to do but then instinct took over.

“Jack, do you know what can happen sometimes when you are getting into trouble a lot?” I said.
“No, what?” He said while trying to catch his breath in between the sobs.
“You can forget that you are loved. And the truth is, when lots of trouble is around it’s a time when you need love the most. Do you think that could be happening to you right now?” I said.
His little face kind of changed. His eyes crinkled and his own hurt feeling cry started.

“Yeah! I need more love mom, I need more love.” He threw his arms around me and buried his head in my chest and sobbed big, heavy sobs.
“I know Jackie, I can tell. And I know you are a kind boy with a good heart, I know this about you, it’s okay. And papa is away and he is the one who snuggles you so much, I think you are missing that too.” He nodded and we sat together in the moment.

We climbed in bed, all four kids. My arms too full with babies to even hold him but he snuggled up against me. He fell asleep with a red and puffy face and a quiet sigh, the drama behind us. I closed my own eyes knowing we would all wake up to less Wii, but maybe a little more love.