Yesterday was an all-too-familiar scene in our house, hectic and scattered. We had a baptism to attend at a church a half an hour away, and our planned departure time came and went with astonishing swiftness. By the time we actually made it out the door, I grimaced as I did a quick once-over of our appearance: my husband was okay, but the boys’ collared shirts were both wrinkled (I had failed to fold them very well in the back of the clothing drawer, and couldn’t tell you where we keep an iron in the house if you paid me $100), pants not much better, and the only shoes we could convince them to put on were dirt-dusted sneakers. My own clothes were passable, but those ‘nice’ black boots I had pulled out of the closet to wear for the first time since last winter? Peeling at the toes. Badly. I considered, but thought better of, coloring the peeling bits with black Sharpie marker as I used to do to my heels in college. But I wouldn’t have the the comfortable camouflage of dark bar lighting to blur the marker’s obviousness here, and somehow felt more comfortable with the thought of feigning ignorance about my dilapidated shoes (should someone notice) than with having to face the embarrassment of displaying my amateur cover-up job to the world.
I was tempted to go back inside, figure out better options, reset our family “best foot forward” look. But there was no time. We needed to go.
And by the grace of God, we arrived on time — even a few minutes early. I glanced around at the other people in attendance and my eyes quickly fell upon a well-dressed woman around my age. Her purple chiffon dress was chic and stylish, her tights perfectly smooth (with nary a stray fuzzball or run in sight), ankle boots in perfect (non-markered) condition. Of course, her accessories all matched perfectly; even her diaper bag, gray and sleek, looked lovely hanging on her arm. It was also roughly 1/3 the size of mine, which at present was overflowing with snacks, diapers, spare t-shirts, and a pile of books hastily thrown in to keep the kids occupied during the service. I shouldered my bag uneasily, again feeling painfully aware of how bedraggled our crew must look in comparison to her and her adorable family.
Oh, the family. Did I forget to mention that part? Her two boys, only slightly older than mine, were dressed in adorable (smooth) collared shirts and pants, appropriate (clean) shoeing, and even had ties on. TIES. How in the ever-loving world did this woman manage to get her boys to not only put ON, but continue to WEAR, TIES?!!!! My internal sigh was so loud. So, so loud. It’s probable that there was an external sigh as well, though hopefully less pronounced.
But hey, we had a thing to do, and it demanded our focus. So I did my best to bury my embarrassed insecurities and enjoy the morning — which, fortunately, I managed pretty well.
By the time the reception rolled around, I was beginning to feel more relaxed. People were chatting as the kids all started running around and playing together; ties became loose, shoes came off. And I realized, at some point in watching my kids there, that despite their wrinkled shirts, they looked good. They were polite, kind, friendly, and, while not perfect (because no kid, and no one, is ever perfect), pretty darn awesome.
I felt a creeping sense of shame come over me at this realization. Why had I been so concerned with appearances? I know myself pretty well by this point, and despite my best efforts, I know I am never going to be the mom whose kids have designer clothes and perfectly coiffed hair to match my own fabulous, color-coordinated outfit. My diaper bag is functional, if disorganized and unmatched to anything we ever wear, and while I’m no Martha Stewart, I do spend every spare minute of my days doing my best to keep a clean home, with cooked (if not always organic) food on the table, and clean (if wrinkled) clothes for everyone.
Most of all, though, I really try my best to be a good parent: to teach my kids about morals, and friendship, and love; to play with them; and to try to lead them by example to the best of my ability.
I realized in that brief moment that it’s okay to appreciate the skills that some other parent may have — and I did, and do, appreciate and admire how that put-together mom can manage to make herself and her family look so polished and nice. But that doesn’t mean that I need to feel ashamed of my own shortcomings in those areas, because there are so many other places where I, along with my family, can shine our own light.
The things that matter most in parenting are the intangibles: love, comfort, acceptance, togetherness. It is in these where I am best able to place my efforts, and you know what? That’s okay.
It is enough. I am enough. And though it’s cheesy to say — if you’re trying your best at this parenting thing? So are you.