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".

IMG_6659.JPG

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.

A Tribute to Single Parents

I saw you walking your kids into my Pre-K classroom every morning.  They appeared to be well-rested, but you looked exhausted already ... and it was only 8 a.m.

I see you in the grocery store, pushing your cart through crowded aisles and trying to get your son to just sit down without smashing the bananas.

I see you at your job.  You're often the first one there and the last one to leave.  It's killing you that your baby has been with someone else all day, but the bills don't pay themselves.

I see you at soccer games, at parent-teacher conferences, at church, and at other activities that are important to your little ones.

I don't often see you at concerts, at the nail salon, at sporting events, or at adult parties.  I don't see you at activities "for you".

I love my daughters so much that I think my heart will burst at times, so I understand why you do what you do.  It's because you have to.  Because you wouldn't have it another way.  Because their happiness matters more than your own.

I flew solo with my youngest on potty training this past weekend.  It was mostly a disaster, and I couldn't wait for my husband to come home at the end of The Longest Day in the History of Caroline.  When he walked in the door, I could finally have a moment to breathe and I came to the realization, for perhaps the ten thousandth time, that I couldn't do all of this without him.  But, single parent, "without him" or "without her" is your life - every day, every moment.  

I need to apologize.  I used to look at your kids and blame you when they misbehaved in my class.  "Their mom doesn't spend enough time with them," I thought.  Not long ago, I would see your daughter with boogers in her nose and wonder why you didn't grab a tissue on your way out the door.  I noticed your children falling apart in Wal-Mart but failed to see the helpless look on your face because sometimes, kids will just be kids.  {Also, doesn't everyone fall apart in Walmart?)  I had no sympathy for you because I didn't take time to listen to your story or care about your circumstances.  Then I had a baby of my own.  I get it now, and I'm sorry.

I'm alone with my girls for about six hours each day before their daddy comes home.  There are days when those hours are pure joy, and there are days when they scream and live in their little worlds of seemingly perpetual disobedience.  On the tough days, I can't wait for my husband to walk in the door.  He lets me go for a run, grab a cup of coffee with a friend, or get a pedicure.  I know that those aren't usually options for single parents, bless you.  I'm run ragged half the time, and I'm not in this alone.

Your infant is never going to thank you for changing his diaper.  Your daughter probably forgot to give you a hug after you took her to dance practice.  Your son didn't show his appreciation that you took off work early to be at his football game.  Your child's teacher didn't realize how much you had to sacrifice to be at that meeting.  Your boss didn't care that you stayed late ... again.

So to the military wife, the single mom working two jobs, the husband whose wife travels for business more than she's home, and the widower who wakes up at 4:30 to get it all done, I hope someone looked you in the eyes today to say, "Thank you."  And I hope you listened.  
 

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.

*** 

IMG_4599.JPG

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.