“When I have kids, they will always be well-behaved in public, have minimal to no screen time, be accomplished musicians, athletes, and diplomats who negotiate Chinese trade by the age of five.”
Okay, I wasn’t that delusional, but I definitely wasn’t prepared for the messiness of motherhood. As a mom of two active boys, I now laugh at my younger self. The first few years of motherhood were an adjustment as I learned to let go of my preconceived notions and sense of control to embrace the messiness and magic of motherhood.
The turning point in my mothering came after I learned about creating a family manifesto from Bruce Feiler’s New York Times bestselling book The Secrets of Happy Families. Inspired by this book, our family created a family cheer that includes the values that embody what it means to be part of our family. Every morning my family and I recite this family cheer.
One of the values we chose to include is, “We find the humor in everyday life.” I admire the humor Marjorie Pay Hinckley brought to her mothering. As she once said, “The only way to get through life is to laugh your way through it. You either have to laugh or cry. I prefer to laugh. Crying gives me a headache.”
One afternoon, this family value was put to the test. We went to lunch with some good friends and experienced what I lovingly refer to as The Fountain Fiasco.
After lunch, my toddler son and his friend wanted to play in the fountain outside of the restaurant. There was just one rule: only hands in the fountain. My son started out well, only using his hands for some innocent splashing. “Oh good,” I thought. “I can sit back and chat with my friend.” Famous last words, right?
Soon I heard some laughter from the restaurant patrons dining on the patio and turned to see what was so funny. And what did I see? None other than my precious little boy donning his birthday suit.
I began to frantically plead with my offspring as I walked toward him, all the while trying to appear composed. As I was pulling his underwear and shorts back up, my son threw his shirt and shoes into the fountain, so he had to go in and retrieve them. I’d been outsmarted!
He rescued his shirt, but his shoes slowly floated to the center of the fountain until they were enveloped by the waterfall. Too nervous to go under, my son asked if I could get his shoes. What?! Swimming in the public fountain was not on my list of goals and dreams for the day. Yet there I was, a grown woman, climbing into the fountain to retrieve my toddler’s shoes. And I’m happy to report I was able to laugh through the situation!
Situations like this happen with some frequency; it’s part of the messiness of motherhood. Here are the four steps that have helped me embrace this messiness:
- Realize the only thing you can truly control is your response. You can’t control the little people you’re responsible for, but you can control your response to their poor choices. Controlling your own behavior will put you in a better position to teach them how to make better choices in the future.
- Recite your values and goals each morning. When you start your day by reviewing what’s most important to you, it creates a framework that shapes your interactions for the day.
- Practice mindfulness in the moment. Instead of being a victim of messy situations where your kids reign supreme, take a mindfulness approach where you view the situations as though you were a third-party participant. This helps you avoid getting wrapped up in the emotions of the moment.
- Record and share your crazy experiences. When crazy, messy situations arise (as they often do in motherhood!), view them as opportunities for learning, as well as great stories to record and share. This is not only therapeutic, but can also be helpful to others in their journey.
QUESTION: What tips and tricks do you use to handle the messiness of motherhood and find humor in your challenging situations?
CHALLENGE: Take some time this week to record what you have learned from the crazy, messy situations that you have experienced as a mother and share those stories with a friend.
Edited by Deborah Nash and Kimberly Price.
Image provided by the author.
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