You Don’t Have to be Perfect to be a Perfect Parent

You don’t have to be perfect to be a perfect parent (

For some reason the recent billboard campaign of the Adopt U.S. Kids organization really hit home with me. Anyone who knows me, understands that I have always taken parenting seriously. It’s the most important, challenging and rewarding thing I’ve ever done.

And both my daughters turned out fantastic despite the complete parenting ignorance of this die-hard perfectionist.

I recognize my same perfectionist tendencies in them both.   Most of the time these traits serve us very well.  It dawned on me the other day, however, that being a perfectionist doesn’t exactly foster or create a good team player. Rather, it brings to mind the old adage “if you want it done right, do it yourself”.

Lately, I have come to realize my perfectionism is more than part of the reason I didn’t initially want children.  Children are a lot of work.  They are selfish and messy and needy.  I couldn’t possibly parent by myself.  I wouldn’t come close to getting it right.  I had exactly zero idea of what I was doing and would most certainly be setting myself up for failure.

So imagine my surprise when, a couple months into dating my husband-to-be, I remember thinking “Wow. I could have children with this man because he would help me raise them”. I know that sounds calculating (and I love him for so many other reasons) but it was evident from the very beginning that he would be a good father.

I honestly don’t see how single parents survive…unless they are way more prepared to be parents than I ever was.

I can’t tell you the number of times I would walk in the door just home from a long day at the office and one of the girls would unknowingly press one of my “buttons”.  It was usually something simple like, “I need 35 cupcakes for my class tomorrow” but when faced with making dinner after a long day, the idea of making 3 dozen cupcakes before bed was enough to throw me over the edge.  Of course, we’d never dream of buying cupcakes.  I was just too thrifty for that.

My husband would calmly lead me away and suggest that I have a little alone time before starting dinner.

I now realize that when I used to look at other people’s children (silently vowing that I would never have any of my own) I was missing a very important element in the equation – the innate bond between a parent and child; the bonding that happens between the time that you become pregnant and the time they’re old enough to actually do any damage just by being themselves.

Yes, they are a lot of work.  It’s some of the most rewarding work you’ll ever do.  Yes, they are selfish and messy.  They are learning a LOT of new stuff in a very short amount of time.  They’ve got to concentrate.  Chances are they’re going to color a little outside the lines – and they really aren’t that concerned  how you feel about it.  They are trying to pick a pea from their plate with their fore-finger and thumb, for goodness sakes!  Can you imagine the muscle co-ordination?!? And, yes – they are needy.  They. Need. You.

When visiting friends with children or sitting next to them at a theatre, you really have little reason to like them.  They are strangers to you and you do your best to be polite.  But let’s face it.  If an adult sat down next to you and began making a game of tossing slightly damp cheerios into your lap most people would promptly start looking for another seat.  If it’s a child, however, what you will have missed is how proud she is that she can feed herself and the realization that she is thrilled to be sharing her contraband movie treats.

When something happens (and it usually will) you just don’t have the kind of love for them that would for your own child.

Yes, you become much less judgmental once you become a parent yourself.  You may relinquish your prime position in a check-out line to the mother with 4 kids in tow.  With a knowing smile, you quietly slip to the next line at airport security when you see travelers with a stroller, baby carrier and multiple diaper bags. You reach for your partner’s hand and actually smile when you hear a small voice break the silence just for the sheer joy of making sounds.

I’m sure there are times when most young mothers look at their child-less friends with some degree of envy.  As a parent you come to learn early-on not to wear the nice clothes. You put away your hand-blown goblets that were a gift from someone else’s trip to Italy.  And you learn not to offer anything red whether it’s juice or Jell-O or Gatorade.  Seriously, even sippy cups stay in the kitchen area, off the carpet – until the child is old enough to juggle.

And yes, there will be days when you and your ego-self feel downright awful.  Many a night I cried myself to sleep thinking I would never get it right – only to be reminded by my husband that tomorrow is another day.  Sounds trite but it’s true.  You really do get another day to start all over again and try to get it right.

So give yourself a break. If your child is old enough you might consider actually apologizing. If they’re too young to understand, do it anyway.  Apologize to the gurgling, angelic being that loves you unconditionally. Forgive yourself while you’re at it.

Then set down your new rules and hold yourself to them – to the best of your ability.

I recently wondered if my daughters even remember how I reacted to spilled milk – so I decided to ask.

In my mind, I was awful. I would push back from the table and race for towels and Windex, acting like the house was on fire.  As much as I tried to prevent it, someone would inevitably spill at the dinner table.  A waving arm would dramatically propel a glass across the room mid-story or the sippy cup would topple while someone was trying to be helpful and get their own refill (why are those cups narrower at the bottom anyway?!?). Milk had to be cleaned up with soap and water (right then) or it would dry sticky (and stink).  I was usually tired (and cranky) – and I always allowed it to drive me crazy.

Guess what? Apparently I did not scar them for life 🙂  In fact the daughter I asked doesn’t even remember this happening once.

What it boils down to it this:  You just have to be the bigger person.  As much as I used to tell my daughters this as they were growing up – they hated having to be the bigger person.  Truth be told, they were the ones who taught me this.  Parenting helps you grow and mature and learn to occasionally put the needs and desires of another person before your own.

I know you can get there.  Hopefully you have someone who will listen and help you get there when you just can’t seem to do it alone.

Believe me, it’s not the long journey it appears to be when you are in the middle of the situation.

Just forgive yourself.  Take a good long look at your sleeping child, re-dedicate yourself to being the best parent you can be. And start over.  Tomorrow is indeed another day.

Elderberry Elixir

Elderberry Elixir
Elderberry Elixir

Elderberries are so powerful when it comes to preventing or relieving a cold or flu.  And why not?!?   Elderberries are a natural anti-viral.  When you add other power-foods to this simple syrup (cinnamon as an anti-microbial, licorice root to soothe the throat, etc), you end up with a delicious morning ritual served up in a thimble (if you’re a faerie) or a shot glass for the rest of us.  Just once a day to ward off the winter gremlins or twice a day (or more) if you find yourself mid-battle with a cold.

Here’s is a recipe adapted from (attributed to Rosalee de la Foret).  InJoy!  Marmalene

50 grams dried elderberries

30 grams dried rose hips

3 cinnamon sticks (crushed or at least broken)

7 grams licorice root

1 tsp finely ground black pepper (yes, you read that correctly)

3 cups apple cider (you can use apple juice but apple cider is more likely to have one ingredient: APPLES)

Put all ingredients in a pot and simmer uncovered for 20 minutes.  Let cool then strain and decant into your bottle of choice.  I keep mine in the fridge so the shape of the bottle shown in the picture is perfect.

Warning, once you share this with others, you may find yourselves making lots of it for friends and neighbors 🙂



Through a Mother’s Eyes

Recognition spreads from heart to mind, resting in my trembling smile, the tears welling up unbidden.  Roles re-versed, I keep pace with my own daughter’s eager return to her senior year of college.

I am my mother’s daughter – and I am not.

Her mother’s Depression Era instincts begat her own frugal ways; my inherent sense of thrift, my daughter’s amazing resourcefulness. Piercing gray steel gave birth to crystalline blue integrity; cerulean pools of cool confidence to the flashing hazel hope of roads yet untraveled.

We learn, we heal, we grow – the journeys of past generations indelibly paving the way for the next.

Satisfied – her job well done – she road quietly smiling in the passenger seat that trip so many years ago.  Once home, she just as silently hung up her keys and walked away from a life of cancer at the age of 45.

Today I race past that invisible mile marker, wind in my hair, literally overflowing with love and hard-won perspective; this sudden realization:

I will be here on my daughter’s graduation day.

Glancing in the rear-view mirror, I whisper a “Thank You” to my mother’s Mother’s eyes.


The Power of Vitamin D

I spent much of today listening to happy people walking past my office window and marveling at the degree to which the lightness of our spirit directly relates to the weight of our outerwear.

It didn’t even bother me (much) to be on the other side of the glass.

Spring is the unfailing cure for so many of my winter woes.

BrighterCamusQuoteI know, I know.  I love this this wonderful quote by Albert Camus.  Re-reading this worn scrap of paper usually gets me me through the long winter months.  But there is nothing that compares with the first couple of days of spring.

Chances are, if you’ve had your blood work done lately, you’ve been told that your vitamin D levels are low.  Everyone I talk to is taking vitamin D supplements.  This long neglected vitamin is finally getting its day in the sun (pun intended).  Of course vitamin D aids in calcium absorption for building strong bones, but it can also reduce the risk of diabetes, heart attack and a slew of other bodily dis-eases.

And (surprise?)  recent medical science studies indicate that an increase in Vitamin D consumption has been shown to lighten your mood.

I’ve done a little research of my own and while it is  possible to take too much vitamin D in the form of supplements,  it is nearly impossible to overdose on vitamin D from sunlight or from foods  (unless you consume a LOT of cod-liver oil).

Now I’m pretty competitive and very interested in home-made health so when my PCP suggested I increase my intake of vitamin D, it was ON.  Every year I increased the amount of Vitamin D I took in the form of supplements.  Every year my blood work indicated I still needed more.

I was remarking about this trend with my friend Linda who asked me what time of year I normally went in for my exam.  I told her it was in the winter – when I’ve been almost unbearably cooped up in the house for 3 months.  Well, duh!

This past winter, I made it a point to bundle up and sit outside in a sheltered spot whenever the temperature soared above 40 degrees.  Of course, I would usually start getting hot and shed layers, exposing more skin.  Even a few minutes of sun without sunscreen does wonders for my mood.  The recommended amount of time depends on the season, the angle of the sun and your personal propensity to sunburn.

I am happy to report that – related or not – my blood work finally indicates I am no longer vitamin D deficient.

No wonder our parents always told us to go outside and play.  It’s good for you in so many ways.

31215bulbsHappy Spring everyone! Now get out there and grab you some sunshine.

InJoy ~ M