5 Stars: Clinging to the only reviews that truly matter

5 stars

I'm an Achiever.

I didn't need an Enneagram test to tell me this, or possibly to tell you this either.  But since I'm an Achiever, I took the test anyway.

Ambitious.

Competent.

Driven.

Status-conscious.

Overly concerned with their image and what others think of them.

I have been this way ever since I can remember.  I drive myself into the ground to prove to myself, but mostly to others, that I am capable.  Worthy.  Accomplished.  5 stars.

This perfectionism plays itself out in virtually every area of my life.  I've convinced myself that I need to earn a 4.0, to qualify for the Boston Marathon, to wear a certain size of clothes, and to have those 5 yellow stars next to my name on the dogsitting website, on our AirBnB listing, and in my Etsy shop.

Reviews make or break me.

I didn't realize this until recently, when I mused aloud to my husband, "It would absolutely crush me if I got one bad rating on Rover (the dogsitting app)."

The words didn't sound so flat and absurd when they were just swirling around in my head.

"Really?" he asked.  "You let the opinions of others hold that much power over you?"

Yeah, I guess I do.  Or at least, I have.  I'm trying to turn a new leaf.

The thing is, I love caring for people's pets and humans and hosting travelers in our home.  I love hand lettering, writing, and crafting.  I want to excel at those things.  But admittedly, I often crave excellence so that people will notice and so that those 5 little stars remain perfectly filled.  Rarely ever do I work hard for the sole purpose of doing a good job.

More often than not, the most important jobs are unrated.  Nobody is handing out stars for being a great mom, wife, or friend.  Unfortunately for me, this can mean that these most important roles are shoved to the back burner to make room for less important but more visible ones.

On the rare occasions when my priorities are properly aligned, I still seek positive reviews and perfect ratings in places where they don't always exist.  

This is especially true in my role as a mom.  I take my kids to do fun activities, but it's more for my sake than for theirs.  I tend to care about my appearance (on social media and otherwise) at the expense of their little hearts.

When we were going through the application and home study process to become certified as a foster family, the case worker interviewed our five-year-old.  One of the questions presented was, "What do you like to do with your family?"

"I just like to be together with them," she answered simply. 

She always gives some variation of this answer when asked a similar question.  She never names "the Instagram moments," such as the zoo, the splash pad, or even our vacations.  "I just like to snuggle with Mommy on the couch," she says.

present over perfefct

My husband doesn't care if I'm a 4.0 student.  My friends don't care if I'm an AirBnB Superhost.  My daughters don't care if I'm the perfect Etsy shop owner or marathoner.  In fact, they don't even care if I'm the perfect mom.  They only care that I'm their mom.  

It's time to start letting those closest to me tell me who I am instead of striving for admiration that is fickle and fading.

My favorite book is East of Eden (John Steinbeck) when I have to name an adult book and You Are Special (Max Lucado) when it is permissible to name a kids' book.  

In You Are Special, the wooden Wemmick people walk around all day, giving each other ugly gray dot stickers or beautiful star stickers.  They make judgments about each other and hand out stickers accordingly.  Everyone wants to have tons of stars.  (This sounds familiar.)  One Wemmick, Lucia, has neither stars nor dots because "the stickers only stick if you let them".  Since Lucia cares only what her Maker thinks of her, she is able to let go of perfection and competition and discover true freedom.  

In the words of John Steinbeck, "Now that you don't have to be perfect, you can be good."

Good. 

That's a perfect goal for me.

Perfectly Imperfect

Do yourself a favor and watch this video the whole way through.  That last scene, though ...

See?  The Ichabod incident had me trying to stifle tears in the middle of Starbucks because I was laughing so hard.  And, because I'm a glutton for punishment or something, I kept rewatching it.     

My husband introduced me to these PSAs a couple of weeks ago because he stays "in the know" on things like this.  I'm a student and a mom of young children, so I basically live in a cave.  

"Don't you love those foster care ads that have been coming on TV lately?" he asked after work one day.  Naturally, I hadn't seen any of the ads he was referencing, which prompted the YouTube search and uncontrollable laughter in Starbucks.

I do love them.  I especially love the hamster video because I can totally see it happening in our house.  

{Several weeks ago, we were dogsitting and potty training (our small human, not the dog) at the same time, a guaranteed recipe for disaster.  During the 30 seconds in which I was taking dinner out of the oven, Caroline pooped on the floor, and the dog ate it.  Then, because this story just keeps getting better, Sister greeted our very first AirBnB guest with, "Ellie (the dog) eat the poop."  Y'all, I can't make this stuff up.}

I guess the real reason that I love those PSAs is because of the last line:

"You don't have to be perfect to be a perfect parent." 

When we adopted our oldest and now that we are starting the foster care process, we have heard a lot of, "You guys are perfect for that!" or "Wow, y'all are such good people."

We aren't.  Not even close.  

If you think otherwise, you should come over and be a fly on the wall during the circus that we call "bedtime".

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We didn't decide to adopt and do foster care because we are awesome people, or because we are exceptional parents, or because we are SuperChristians, or because we have our junk together more than others do.  We chose to adopt because we wanted to grow our family.  We agreed to do foster care because we saw a need to be met, and we have the means to help.  We aren't perfect, but we know the One who is.

At least 87 times a day, I ask myself, God, or the nearest person in the room if we are completely crazy for wanting to add to the chaos that is currently our life.  "I don't parent two children very well at times; how can I possibly parent more?" I wonder aloud.

The truth?  There will be grace for the days as they come.  

When my girls were tiny, I thought that I could not possibly endure another sleepless night.  And then I did.  God does not give the strength needed for tomorrow, today.

I'm such a detail-oriented person that I tend to "miss the forest for the trees" on a regular basis.  I have recently come to realize that I will drown myself in the particulars of foster care if I dwell on them, so I need to take a 10,000 foot view of it all.  I could ask tons of "what if" questions and play out every scenario in my head, but at the end of the day, I try to keep coming back to this: Our journey will be hard and good, and that is the most that I need to know in this instant. 

Oh, and if you're reading this and somehow still thinking that I have a good heart aside from my little imperfections, I should tell you that this "good heart" was just pondering the many ways in which foster care will make our lives more uncomfortable.  The call of comfort, for me, is almost always more alluring than the higher callings of love and holiness.

My husband and I are two imperfect people raising two imperfect people.  But we'll be the perfect family for some imperfect child in spite of everything.

And We Made It: Success Stories from a Parent with Imperfect Parents

I originally posted the essay below on Blogger in 2013, immediately following the birth of my oldest.  After reading back through it four years later, all I can say is that it's still completely true.  In fact, it's probably even more true with the addition of another child.  These years are tough and good and exhausting and beautiful, and the tendency toward feelings of inadequacy is ever-present.  But I made it through imperfect parenting, and my kids will, too.  There is grace for today.

*** 

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I'm only about twelve weeks into this parenting thing, and I already feel like a failure.

Sometimes I look at the piles of laundry sitting in our bedroom and think about how they never existed just a few months ago.  Before baby, I could get all of our laundry washed, folded, and put away in a day.  Now it takes me that same amount of time to deal with one load.  Never mind that I haven't made dinner in weeks (I'm not counting Stouffer's lasagna).  I blame it on the fact that the little one doesn't take naps for more than 20-30 minutes at a time.  (Did I mention that I also failed at BabyWise?)


I look at the other babies being dropped off at daycare and admire the tiny Ralph Lauren logos printed on their onesies.  I think about how we can't afford designer clothes, and I try to forgive myself for letting her run out of diapers last week.  
Every now and then, I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror and wonder when I started wearing messy buns every other day instead of fixing my hair.  Then I feel sorry for my husband, who didn't think he was marrying a slob four years ago.

Right now, she's just a baby, but soon the time will come when Piper is off to her first day of kindergarten.  And I won't be the mom who makes her a cute themed breakfast or cuts her sandwiches into dinosaurs.  There will be moments when I wish I was.  But for one, I'm not a crafty food person.  For two, I'm struggling to get both of us out the door on time now, and all I have to do is buckle an infant into a car seat.

I'm not SuperMom like I had hoped.  Mostly, I'm just super tired.  The house isn't as clean as a museum every minute anymore, I'm a hot mess 90 percent of the time, and we can't give our baby the absolute best of everything that the world has to offer.  On the days when defeat and inadequacy lurk around every corner, I remember how I grew up.  I am reminded of the way that my parents raised my brother and me, and I know that everything will turn out fine.

I wore hand-me-downs through at least elementary school, maybe longer...

...and I made it.

Sometimes, we ate amazing home-cooked meals.  But sometimes, when we asked Mom what we were having for dinner, she would tell us to go look in the refrigerator...

...and we made it.

We didn't eat gluten-free, sugar-free, or any other kind of "free" that otherwise restricted our diets (although eating for free was always good)...

...and we made it.

Occasionally, Mom was running behind (probably because she was doing something for us), so I would be late to gymnastics practice.  I would have to do extra push-ups or crunches...

...but I made it.

There were days when a friend of mine would come over while the laundry was still sitting on the couch in piles.  My friend and I would joke about "whitie-tighties" and "granny panties" and then we would move on with our teenage lives...

...so obviously we made it.

I drove a mini-van in high school and didn't get a cell phone until I was sixteen.  100 percent not cool all the way around...

...but I made it.  

We lived in a smaller, one-story house for our whole lives, and my brother and I always shared a bathroom.  I hated that he left water spots on the mirror, and he hated that my hair got stuck in the shower drain...

...but we made it.  

My parents couldn't afford to send us to the most expensive private schools where we would get the very best education.  Regardless, my brother was a National Merit Scholar...

...so you can see that he made it.

The thing is, I'm probably going to keep feeling like a failure, but only as often as I let myself.  My mom and dad weren't perfect, but they did a darn good job.  So, at the end of the day, there will always be parents who are doing all of this better than me, parents who can provide more for their children.  I can't do it all and I can't be everything I want to be.  But I know the One who can.  And I know that because her life is in His hands...

...she is going to make it.
 

Breakfast on paper plates with bedheads ... because that's how we roll.

Breakfast on paper plates with bedheads ... because that's how we roll.