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The Real Mommy Wars

Stick with me today, because I’ve
got something to say.

Yesterday I had a less-than-fun morning cajoling my troops back
into our usual school routine. I privately grumped to myself while
I woke them up, packed their lunch boxes and backpacks, dragged
them to school, and sent them off on another day.

I had only half my brain focused on the individual tasks all
morning – the other half was busy having a pity party, table
for one. So I shouldn’t have been surprised when, at
Cora’s school, we discovered I’d given her
Maddie’s lunch box, and vice versa.

Did I leave it alone, and say, “Tough it out and eat your
sister’s lunch”? No, I did not.

I knew Cora would probably find it
thrilling to use her big sister’s lunch bag, but I pictured
Maddie, bewildered, trying to decide if she could eat Cora’s
lunch or if she should save it for her sister. I saw Maddie’s
face as she looked at Cora’s water bottle and thought to
herself: “Mommy always says not to drink out of anyone
else’s water bottle! What should I do?”

What should I do? Why, yes, indeedy, I drove to Maddie’s
school, had her get out of class and bring me Cora’s lunch,
gave Maddie her own lunch, then drove back to Cora’s school
and dropped the correct lunch bag off there. Identical lunches, of

As I left Cora the first time with a promise to return soon with
the correct lunch bag, Cora simply shrugged “Okay,” and
turned away and I had a brief moment of “Am I making too big
of a deal out of this? I pictured Maddie’s relieved face as I
handed her the right lunch bag, though, and knew I was doing the
right thing.

Except that she just shrugged too, and said, “I just figured
it was some kind of March prank you were pulling on me,”
before trudging back to her class room.

I got back in the car feeling oddly deflated and couldn’t
figure out why, until I realized: the person most worried about the
lunch bag mix-up was me. When I dug down deep to the bottom of the
whole thing, I was frustrated with myself for messing up, for doing
a Mommy job less than perfectly.

And that is why I took half an hour out of my day to drive a bunch
of lunch bags around our neighborhood. I had to fix my mistake, to
not have my children suffer the consequence of my screw-up.

And isn’t that the most ridiculous thing? How much time do I
spend teaching my kids about unconditional love – that we all
sin, we all fall short, and God loves us anyway? I am a broken
record constantly repeating, “You can never do anything that
will make me love you less! You are perfect just the way you
are!” I talk about grace and forgiveness – and yet
extend none to myself.

And we wonder where our children get it from.

My friends and I all laugh – but painfully – at how we
see traits in our kids- perfectionism, worry, fear – that we
wish we could wave away for them – but that we wrestle with
ourselves. Every day. We lead by example, indeed.

There is a war raging within every mommy – a fight to raise
our children up to be better than ourselves. To teach them
compassion, sympathy, grace unmeasured, while we show none to
ourselves. To make sure they learn how to go easy on themselves, to
allow things to slide imperfectly by, to know that sometimes? Good
enough is good enough.

Except when it comes to ourselves.

Listen, my friends. Every time you tell your daughter that she is
beautiful just the way she is, and then look at yourself in the
mirror and frown, your daughter notices. Each evening you lecture
about how sweets aren’t healthy for you and then sneak a
Snickers bar when you think she’s not looking, she is –
and learning that a) Mommy doesn’t think she’s worth
keeping healthy, and b) sweets should be eaten shamefully, in a
dark room. And all those times you tell your daughter she can do
anything and then refuse to play baseball with her because you know
you’re not very good, your daughter learns from you.

Have I ever told you that I suck at bowling? I mean, super-duper
suck. As in, my all-time LIFETIME high score is a 46. Yep. You read
it right. And you also probably know now that I am a perfectionist,
so you won’t be surprised that I bowled a 26 on a date once
in high school and never again picked up a bowling ball for most of
my adult life. I swore that if I couldn’t do it well, I
wouldn’t do it. No fun. And I kept that promise for almost
twenty years.

Then I had kids, who wanted to go bowling. And every time they
bowl? I do too. And they beat me. EVERY TIME. One time we bowled
next to a group of special needs adults, and – this is not an
exaggeration – a guy crippled with cerebral palsey who had to
use a walker to get up to the bowling lane beat my score. Sure, he
was using bumpers, but still. Out-bowled me by thirty points.

Do I hate it? Yeppers. Yessirree. Indeedy I do. I do not enjoy
bowling a perfect row of gutter balls. But I want my kids to see me
doing something I SUCK ROCKS at, and being ok with that. I want
them to see me try, and fail, and smile anyway.

My kids enjoy bowling with me, and I can honestly say that
it’s one of my greatest Mommy accomplishments.

The biggest mommy war is within, as we struggle to remember that we
are as deserving of love and generosity and forgiveness and grace
as our kids are. It’s a battle, I know. But I promise you,
our kids are watching.

And they’re worth the fight.


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