i struggle wanting to be perfect: i want life under control. i want parenting to fit into a pretty box with a big bow. i want my life to look as put together as it does on my instagram feed, a perfect collage of colors, people, and order. here are my 5 steps on How-to be the PERFECT parent. if you just follow these steps, i promise you will be like Mary Poppins snapping your life magically into perfection.

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1. Honesty, like the brutally, painful kind of honesty. Be honest with yourself about what you feel and think. don’t listen to guilt or shame that tells you how horrible  you are. guilt and shame only drive us more into hiding, making those thoughts dig and gnaw away at us. Here is a little secret… lean in real close now… we have all had those dark thoughts. we’ve all had the silent wishes that are too terrible to even admit. instead of being silent, speak. Be honest because honesty is the first step towards freedom. dear friend, don’t be afraid. start with a whisper, invite a friend to come close, and slowly, the louder you speak the quieter those bad thoughts will get. be honest- with yourself, God, and others.

 

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2. Admit. admit you aren’t perfect. i mean admit it like an alcoholic at an AA meeting. “Hello, I’m Anjuli and i’m a recovering perfectionist.” it sounds crazy, but it so liberating. When i meet people i let them know right off that i don’t have it together, but i want you to think i do. My weakness is wanting to put out an image that i have life under control, that i have my kids, house, clothes, you name it – in order. something about having life ‘in order’ – ‘perfect’ keeps me feeling safe, but that security is a lie. a big, mean, nasty looking lie that actually keeps me from experiencing true intimacy and relationship with others. don’t live that lie. don’t let others believe that lie either because that is mean too. it gets real slippery and messy and hard to keep up with the perfect you. you make mistakes, embrace it, live from that place of neediness and your heart for others will grow in great compassion. admit you need help, you don’t have anything together, and you are limping through most days. go to that AA meeting every morning you wake up and look in that mirror. the person you see staring back at you- gooey eyes, hair in a tangled mess of baby spit up and bed feathers- that’s the real you. admit it and move on.

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3. Rhythm. find your rhythm, your pace, your way through the day that makes the most sense to YOU. I am calling it a ‘rhythm’ because a schedule freaks me out. when i hear the word ‘schedule’ i automatically get overwhelmed. following a schedule makes me feel like a failure the same way math made me feel dumb, too many steps to follow.  a rhythm is like flipping to the back of your math book- so much easier. find the outcome you want and find the rhythm in your life that helps you get there. YOU are the parent. YOU have been given this child with his temperament, personality,  and creativity because YOU are enough to shape their little heart into understanding how this whole human works. don’t do it like your neighbor or that blogger in Texas or your cousin. Do it like YOU because YOU have been given this child for a reason. because you are you. and this is coming from a mom who did the home-school thing and dropped out, tried co-sleeping and cry it out. every kid and every family finds it’s on rhythm. find your own pace, speed, and style. finding your rhythm will change through the different seasons, so maybe it’s more like a dance, but regardless- low expectations heed high results- so get your groove on.

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4. be known so you can know. be the telescope of your own heart so you can see the heart of your children. the degree to which you can see yourself (the good, bad, ugly, and beautiful) is the degree which you will be able to really see your children’s heart. don’t let good behavior be enough. understand motive and what moves them to action. the more you sift through your own feelings the less your children’s feeling will trigger you. the more you understand your own anger, the less their tantrums will trigger your rage. the more you understand your anxiety the greater equipped you will be to handle theirs. you are the telescope to your children’s souls. the wound comes through the womb. your un-dealt with pain will become your kids pain, so deal with your issues. it isn’t easy. it is hard work to see yourself as you truly are. it is hard to grieve things you would rather stuff and painful to face your own insecurities and fears. but you are the adult and you hold the telescope- know your heart so you can know the heart of your child. be the telescope- adjust the lens, analyze the darkness, and move in carefully so you can see the stars.

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5. Accept. accept your story. it has been written and it is yours. it is glorious and messy, but it’s yours. walk everyday (or rather- sleep walk with a coffee in hand) with the confidence that you are loved, you are accepted, you are enough. not because i say so, but God so loved the world- sent His only son- and died for you so you can live out a loud, beautiful, story filled with freedom, joy, grace, gratitude, resilience, courage, and creativity. it is a love story made for you. our eyes wander so quickly into wanting another story and we lose sight of the story etched in, behind, and before us. stay the course. step boldly into each new day. to accept your story, your children, your husband, your walls, and all that you might be lacking is to accept what you have been so graciously been given.

 

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i know these 5 steps are for me. this is what i long and hope to be as a mom. i think when i live connected to these truths, i’m actually the closest to who i want to be as a mom, wife and child of God. when i am honest, admit my brokenness, find a rhythm that works for me, know my heart and the heart of my kids, and accept my story for what it is, i think i’m the closest to perfect i can be.

so if i’m saying that perfect parenting is actually being painfully honest, imperfect, vulnerable, and needy- YES, that’s exactly what i’m trying to say.

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(I would add Pray as #6 but truthfully, all of these are a prayer. prayer is the breath of life. )

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samuel is 5. yes, 5.

he is my child that i miss the most. i miss him because he is my middle child. he is the child following my very verbal oldest and very cute youngest. Since he was a baby he could self soothe. he would hold his blanket up to his face and stroke it with his pointer finger while his thumb plopped in his mouth like a cork.

for months i’ve been praying for samuel. he hasn’t been growing up. it’s like he has been a 3 yr old for the past few years and hasn’t moved forward. i felt distant from him and somehow just couldn’t connect. i felt like i was missing him. and i was.

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as his birthday approached we talked about putting his blanket away. i joked with him about giving it to the mailman or the trash truck that comes every wednesday morning. he would laugh and grab his blanket all the tighter. the blanket has followed him everywhere: school, church, grandmas house.

when he was angry, he pressed his blanket to his face.

when he was sad, his thumb popped into his mouth.

when he was tired, his blanket stretched out under him like a stretcher carrying him off to sleep.

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on the morning of his 5th birthday he came into our room. i asked him if he was ready to give me his blanket.

he looked at baby Hannaly, sleeping on my arm. he laid it across her body and said, “Hannah (bc he calls her Hannnah and i love that!) can have my blanket so she can suck her thumb.”

i tucked his blanker away in our closet. since then, something in samuel has changed. i feel like i am seeing my son for the first time in a very long time. i don’t just see him. i hear him.

i hear his thoughts, his feelings, his heart. i hear words. i hear sentences. i hear complete thoughts.

instead of seeing his thumb locked into his mouth, trapping him away, i see him.

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and this one thing that was his security for so long was actually the one thing holding him back from growing, from becoming who he was meant to be. he no longer sulks in the corner, he speaks. he no longer stuffs his anger, he expresses it. he no longer needs his blanket to fall asleep, now he asks for me. and i love him. i love the words that come out of his mouth. i love hearing how he thinks and sees the world. i love understanding the way he perceives life, friendships and God.

how often do we cling to a security object (a habit, a relationship, an income, a church) that is actually holding us back from really growing?  there is a part of us that is desperate to grow and yet, we get stuck, slowly sinking with that object taking us under. we think we need it for life, but it is actually what is weighing us down.

 

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something aches in me when i don’t see him dragging his blanket behind him anymore. it’s like he is growing up and that is difficult for a momma. i want him to get big, but i miss his babyhood. it’s like an era is gone. and as much as i want that kid to grow up and discover who he is, i still want to crawl into his room at midnight and see his body tangled up in those rags of a blanket.

so much of motherhood is holding on and letting go. learning to live open handed.

i think samuel wanted to give up his blanket. perhaps he wanted to let it go a long time ago, but i didn’t see the signs. he wants to be big and pass on his babyhood to his new little sister. i love that kid. i really do. he expands my heart in all kinds of directions that i never knew existed. him growing up is growing me.

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i don’t miss him anymore.

happy 5th birthday, sambo. samma lama. sammy. my samuel.

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she walked into my home, star bucks in hand, and with an exhale said, “it feels like home walking into your house. it feels healthy.”

her comment startled me. it made me stop. had she seen me five minutes earler slamming down anger like a whip commanding obedience, sending my four year old to his room in tears? had she seen me frantically throwing away trash and putting pillows back in their perspective places.  had she seen my neurotic need to get my house in order for her arrival, only to have failed miserably- toys, blankets, and undone forts piled across my floor.

she told me about her house that feels like a tomb, her kids grown and gone. everything now in its place, untouched and silent.

she misses the mess. all i hear is failure.

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i cried myself to sleep Monday night. the weight of all my failures shutting me in and down like pulling shades on a hot afternoon, all i wanted was the darkness. i let it come over me, heavy and deep.

like flash cards running one after the next, i replayed my many faults and let my tears fall.

because my failures are many and once i let one slip past the doorway of my, ‘ i’m good enough fortress,’… all the blocks start to crumble.

and they did, guilt soothing me to sleep.

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 i felt guilty about not enjoying- EVERY. SINGLE. MINUTE. OF. MY. DAY.

i hear constantly that these days go by so fast, one day you will miss these years, you will never regret staying at home with them, soak it up, play with them … ______________ (i’m sure you can fill in the blank).

You are at the grocery store and the kind old lady pulls her cart up to yours as you have one kid squirming their way  out of the designated kid seat, one begging for fruit snacks, and one stepping on your heels, and she says, “these are the best days of your life.” really? really?

so not only am i NOT enjoying this outing with my wild children- to which i am already feeling guilty about, now, i’m feeling guilty about NOT drinking in these precious moments enough. guilt.

guilt is at every corner.

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my failure wasn’t that my house was messy, but that i STILL cared what my friend thought. i wanted to present a house, a ME, that had it all together. i wanted her to see a mom that was  making dinner, had clean floors, and kids that greeted her with a hand shake. i wanted to present a picture that wasn’t really real. and when i couldn’t control my kids into picking up, i snapped. i scolded, i yelled, i shot anger like arrows into their chests.

the truth was- my messy house made her feel at home. in fact, it was what she wanted.  but all i heard was one day, you will miss this- the chaos, the mess, the crackers smashed into the carpet. and another layer of guilt was exposed.

guilt- that i had just yelled at my kids for making a mess, guilt- that i had tried to put my house in order to present a perfect picture of our lives, and guilt- that i wasn’t somehow embracing these days- as they are supposedly the ‘best days of my life.’  i just can’t win.

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guilt isn’t a foreign feeling to me.

it’s always been there, before kids, before marriage, before i even knew how to name it.

guilt, like a gun always accusing.

and i run and run in circles trying to fight it back, telling it to go away, diffusing its power, until nights like the other night- i fall on my knees accepting my sentence. guilty, as charged.

 

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yet, guilt has only one diffuser, one replacement, one silencer: LOVE.

one love that is greater, one love that stepped in, one love that paid the penalty for all my failings.

the only escape from guilt is accepting love. accepting the truth that I’m not good enough- ever. accepting the truth of who i am and crushing the shadow of perfect perception i have of myself.

the goal is not perfection, but process.

the remedy of guilt is accepting grace.

the motion that keeps my heart beating inside of my chest is love.

 

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there is no guilt in love. none. ever.

because the truth is my house is in shambles and i don’t enjoy- EVERY SINGLE MINUTE of my life at home with kids. the truth is i daydream about when they are older and i can eat an entire meal without begging my kids to take- just. one. more. bite. the truth is that i get real- red in the face- angry at my kids. the truth is that i want to give people the perception that i’ve got my act together and meals planned out for weeks.

there is the real me and the me i want to be. and when i can’t live up to that pretty perfect picture of me- i fail. i fall short.

i feel guilt like it’s my blood.

 

 

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but when i am me. the real, honest, down right messy me, it is there that i am loved. there, that i am free.

there is no failure (or fear, guilt, shame, loneliness)- when truth is met by love.

love is always an invitation to honesty.

an invitation to be who we really are.

an invitation to let ourselves of the hook of perfection.

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the truth is- i’m not invited to have a clean house or the perfect discipline techniques

or to love EVERY SINGLE MINUTE of my day.

i am invited into love. always love. accepting God’s love and accepting me (as i am), the one, He loves.

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