If there is one thing I criticize about myself as a mother, it is my lack of organization. Here is the funny thing: in my former life (read: prior to children), I was a raging perfectionist. Type A, control freak — call it what you will. If we are being honest, I still am, but my efforts to keep up with these standards leave me feeling bewildered and frustrated more often than not. We have a serious problem in our house with not being able to find things. Sometimes I joke that we have a mischievous ghost occupying our house who gleefully swipes things, leaving us to run around like lunatics, suppressing profanity–or not, on a really bad day.
I find these unfortunate scavenger hunts occur more often than not in the morning. Mornings are currently the bane of my existence, a time when my maternal ineptitude manifests in all its frenetic glory. Each morning that we engage in the frantic race to get everybody fed, clothed, and out the door, I make snap decisions that sometimes result in egregious errors in judgment causing us to dangerously skirt the dreaded tardy bell. I admit that I struggle with organization and time management, and the most common culprit for my self-imposed chaos is my desire for just a few more minutes of sleep. Perhaps sometime in the future when I am not waking up between 2-6 times per night with my baby, I will decide to set the alarm for 6:30 and prepare for my day while my children sleep. As of right now, it is just not happening.
The most likely scenario on any given day involves us staying in bed as long as possible and then scrambling around at the last minute looking for some misplaced item such as a jacket, my car keys, the hair detangler, or another must-have. I really do try; I even have a system involving a binder, a dry-erase checklist, and two calendars. We are rarely late, thank goodness, as punctuality is a quality that used to be right up there with cleanliness and godliness in my book. Nonetheless, I find I am thoroughly frazzled and irritated with myself for my lack of preparation on a daily basis.
On one particularly confounding morning before summer camp, we were on our way out the door exactly on time. It had gone eerily smoothly…obviously something was bound to go wrong. Today it was the soccer shoes. They were not in the cubby, which is their designated spot and one of my daughter Izzy’s responsibilities each day. In a moment of quiet desperation, I saw the sands of our punctuality slipping through my hands. The five minutes Izzy searched for her shoes were futile, and just long enough to ensure our tardiness. Although having my competency derailed in such a way caused me great consternation, I was suddenly inspired to turn our situation into a Love and Logic teaching moment. I asked my daughter how she planned to handle this problem. After sulking for awhile and fretting that she would cry in front of her classmates, she presented several scenarios: go home and search for the appropriate footwear, thus making her late and having to “pay” mommy for the extra transportation time, or put on a pair of Crocs that we had in the car and inform her coaches why she was unable to participate in soccer for the next hour. After seriously considering her options, she decided to avoid tardiness, wear her Crocs, and explain the situation to her coaches.
As we walked into camp together, I was struck with a rare moment of clarity about the true “teaching moment” in this situation. I realized that it was slightly hypocritical of me to be irritated with my kindergartener about failing to successfully perform one of her few jobs–keeping track of her personal belongings–when her father and I lose approximately 36 “important” items a week. I discovered that I no longer felt frustrated about our morning, but rather impressed at how my daughter had helped problem solve and take accountability for her misplaced shoes. I knew I needed to somehow convey this to my sensitive child, who had taken her mistake rather hard. “Izzy,” I began, “I know you felt mad at yourself for losing your shoes this morning. But I want you to know something. I am very proud of you. Everybody makes mistakes, even Mommy and Daddy. It is part of life. What is important is how we handle them, and you handled this mistake in a very mature way. I am really proud of you for solving this problem and being brave enough to tell your coaches what happened.”
I can see clearly all the ways in which I could become better organized in my daily life. I also see a real need to cut myself some slack, reflect on the stage of parenthood I am in, and forgive myself for my perceived “failures.” I made a decision when my second baby was born that I would truly savor her infancy. Decades down the road, I want to remember all the hours I spent holding and enjoying my baby. If I expect my daughter to bounce back from mistakes, I need to give myself the same permission to move on after a disorganized morning. In that moment I promised myself to try just a bit harder to get it together, but more importantly, to revel in the joy of our crazy household, chaotic though it may be.
QUESTION: Do you ever find yourself reacting with more frustration to your child’s weaknesses when they are similar to your own?
CHALLENGE: Instead of getting upset, revel in the teaching moment that has just been presented to you and your child, and let them know that this is something you struggle with as well and that even mommies make mistakes.
Images provided by the author.
Originally published on December 8, 2012.