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It had been one of those days. Monday. Ely wanted the day to be fun for her three girls. She planned to get up early and get out of the house to enjoy the day. Maybe go to the park or somewhere fun to play. But Ely couldn’t get her act together. In fact, she couldn’t get past breakfast. She wanted the girls to have a healthy breakfast – but the kitchen isn’t her strong suit. The girls hated the smoothie she made and refused to drink it. Cindy, her two-year-old, knocked the smoothie down to the floor in one of her crying fits. Bella, the five-year-old, hit Sammy, the three-year-old, and took her toy. They each ate a few bites of the pumpkin oatmeal pancakes Ely made, but it certainly wasn’t worth the mess she’d made in the kitchen.
Somehow it was noon and the girls were still in pajamas. Ely was in pajamas. The house looked like a hurricane hit it and her husband hates to come from work and find the house messy. Oh, and the girls were hungry. Of course they were, they barely ate breakfast.
And then Ely checked her phone.
All the school moms were posting on the group chat what their kids were doing this week.
Suzy was in gymnastics camp. Christy was in acting camp. Lily was having a blast in nature camp. Ely had debated whether to put her girls in specialty camps this summer but since she works three days a week, she preferred to keep her girls home on her two off-days so they could spend time together. Only the summer camp at her daughter’s school would allow her to bring the girls three times a week.
Mia’s mom had also kept Mia home this week. She was posting pics of the scavenger hunt she’d set up in her backyard and the healthy snacks she’d prepared for her daughter. Mia loves all the healthy foods her mom makes. After lunch, they were going to do some school work so Mia is ready for First grade.
Ely was still trying to get the girls to brush their teeth.
Ely sat for a moment on her sofa, watching her little girls run around with disheveled hair and half naked. She felt completely defeated.
I totally suck as a mom.
Not only were her kids stuck at home instead of a “cool” camp, but she couldn’t even manage to do something fun at home like the other mom.
How do they do it? She thought as her mind went into a downward spiral.
Why am I such a disaster?
I can’t even take care of myself. I don’t exercise. I’m tired all the time.
My kids give me a hard time about everything.
I can’t get it together.
She spent hours beating herself up, as she picked up the kitchen, put the girls down for nap, fed them lunch, and played with them.
After a very long and brutal day, the girls were bathed and in bed. Ely was laying with Bella reading her a bedtime story. “Ok baby girl,”she said “It’s time for you to go to sleep. Tomorrow you get to go to camp and have fun.”
Bella sat up straight on the bed. “But mommy, I don’t want to go to camp tomorrow.”
“Why not, Bella?”
“Mommy, I just want to be with you.”
Ely couldn’t believe what she was hearing. “Bella, you rather stay home with me and do nothing than go to camp with your friends?”
“Yes, mommy. I love being home with you.”
Ely couldn’t hold back the tears. All day she’d beaten herself up for not being as perfect as the other moms, who all seemed to be mothering better than she was. She’d stressed about all the things she wasn’t doing this summer and all the while her daughters got exactly what they wanted. Time with their mommy.
A friend of mine who has older kids told me once, “I used to think my kids needed quality time with me, but I’ve realized they just want time with me.”
We all have a little Ely in us. We set such high standards for ourselves and we judge ourselves and beat ourselves up for not doing everything perfect. But those are not the standards our kids are holding us too. They don’t need all that. Actually, what they need is so simple.
So next time you’re down in the dumps about how badly you’re failing at this parenting thing – remember Ely. Give yourself a break. You’re doing the best you can and that’s okay!
Don’t worry so much about giving your kids a magical experience this summer. You are the magic.