I looked at the clock. One hour was left until we had to head out the door to the orthodontist. The appointment would be a fast one, a simple retainer check.
“Tricia, go grab your retainer,” I called to my daughter, certain she could just grab it from her nightstand. Last night I remembered to ask her if she knew where her retainer was and she had confirmed that she did. I was prepared for this appointment.
Until suddenly, I wasn’t prepared.
She called downstairs, “Mom. I can’t find my retainer.”
What? No. That can’t be. I checked with her last night. She informed me that she had it.
I marched up the stairs. “It should be right there on your nightstand.”
“I know. But it isn’t,” she explained meekly.
“Well, where is it?”
“I don’t know.”
“Listen. You told me last night that you had it.”
“I know. I thought I did.”
From that point on, the conversation didn’t go anywhere good. I could feel the anger welling up inside me. I searched the room with quite an “edge” to my searching like only a frantic, upset mother can do.
The thoughts in my head were extreme. Too dramatic. Too angry. What on earth was going on? This is only a misplaced retainer. My reaction is clearly an OVER-reaction to the situation.
I’m not mad you lost the retainer. I am mad you lied about having it last night.
That must be it. But no. That isn’t it. I shouldn’t have said that. Her statement wasn’t a deceitful lie. It was the comment of a child who truly thought it was upstairs, and like the average person, she didn’t bother to double check.
I sent my daughter out of the room while I scoured it for another 15 minutes. Nothing. I found nothing.
But sitting there alone in that room, I began to reflect on my actions.
Where was this anger coming from? Misplacing a retainer is an honest mistake, yet I am so mad. I am looking around at all of the mess in her bedroom and feeling tense. mad. angry. And then the deeper issue hits me.
I feel like a failure. Bad mom. Disorganized mom. Lousy mom who can’t keep up with a simple retainer or a child’s mess in a bedroom or appointments for kids or schedules or schoolwork or housework or meal planning beyond one good week or anything at all when it comes to motherhood.
The snowball of shame was gaining momentum fast and I was being blindsided. And I was releasing my shame as anger on to my child.
So I called it out for what it was.
This anger is NOT about a retainer or her telling me a “lie” or a messy bedroom. It is about the voices of shame I hear in my head, telling me that I am not a good enough mom. Voices that tell me I shouldn’t have had 4 kids because I clearly can’t keep life together anymore. Voices that scream what a disorganized mess I am. Voices that yell at me about all of the areas of my life that I can’t keep up with anymore.
Worst of all, these voices that remind me how organized I used to be. How I used to get comments from friends about how together I was. I had an organized life. organized home. organized goals. The twenty-year-old version of me was so. freaking. together. And these voices of shame remind me how far I have fallen from the ideal image in my mind.
You see, it isn’t the first time that these voices have attacked. I am certain we all have our triggers. For me: forgotten appointments, lost keys, misplaced library books. These small incidents trigger big emotions for me, reminding me how different I am from that organized former version of myself.
And they were triggered this morning by a lost retainer.
I got myself together and called the orthodontist to reschedule the retainer check. I confirmed that if we didn’t find it in 2 weeks, the appointment would be used for new mouth impressions to order a new one.
Then I found my daughter. It was time for an apology and an explanation.
Sweetie. I am so sorry I was so mad this morning. It was wrong. I want you to know that it wasn’t about you or the retainer. It was about me. Me feeling like a mess. You see, everyone makes mistakes, but I have a hard time accepting that I make those mistakes. And I know it is my fault for not helping you look for your retainer last night, so it makes me mad at myself. I like to think I have things together and organized, but sometimes incidents like this remind me that I am not perfect. But you knew that, didn’t you? (giggles)
But ya know what? It is OK to make mistakes. It is OK to lose retainers. In fact, that is a small mistake compared to some I have made earlier this year. Remember that time I backed the van into a stranger’s car by accident? UGH. I was so mad at myself, but I worked it out and paid for the damages. And what about the time I locked the keys in the car the night before we were going to the beach and Daddy was out of town and we had to call and pay for a locksmith? DOUBLE UGH. I was so mad at myself, but we did what we had to do.
I am sorry sweetie that I over-reacted. This retainer is such a small thing. It was an honest mistake and less consequential than some of the biggies I have made this year, right? So let’s move on with our day and look again tonight. Hopefully, it will show up in the next two weeks, but if not, we’ll just size you up for a new one, OK? Do you forgive me?
She did. And I forgave myself. Again.
I forgave myself for being an imperfect mom of four who doesn’t keep all of the balls in the air without dropping
a ton a few one every now and then.
There is no perfect mom. There isn’t even one who has perfected just one area of motherhood. Instead, there are imperfect moms who let things slide, forget appointments, have kids with messy rooms, make lousy meal plans, have curtains that don’t match the furniture, wear yoga pants straight from the dirty clothes pile, and so many other imperfections that will never end up on our Pinterest boards.
There are millions of “good enough” moms who are enjoying their kids, planning vacations, laughing with their families, playing games with their teens, and muddling through the balance of all of their many roles.
Today, I will embrace being good enough