I always feel pangs of jealousy and panic as I scroll through the Instagram feeds of other families.
“What a perfect day we had with the kids at the park!”
“What an amazingly awesome week we had as a family at the beach!”
“I can’t believe how perfect of a weekend we had with all our friends and our kids!”
I struggle to say that I have “perfect vacations” let alone “perfect weekends” or “perfect days.” Why and how do all these families seem to accomplish such frequent perfection? What am I missing? What am I doing wrong? Why am I missing out on their joy?
The other day I was at the park with all three of my kids. My two boys discovered a creek and decided that they wanted to rip off their clothes and jump in. I huffed behind them holding a squirmy, dirty and fussy 1-year-old, and decided, eh, why not. Go for it. They squealed with increasing delight as they removed their clothes, reveling in the forbidden joy of being naked in public and feeling a rush from acting on an impulsive decision. The water was cool enough to sting, which further evoked screams of delight and fortitude. I surrendered to the moment and cautiously entered the water myself with baby in tow.
As we waded out to the center of the stream, I looked up at my boys who were playing with such carefree exuberance. There was kicking and splashing, rock throwing, belly-flopping and fish catching (attempted). Their white bums a stark contrast to their tan legs, serving as a reminder of the many hours they have spent swimming their summers away. A strong gust of wind loosened a round of leaves from the trees downstream and I watched in delight as they fluttered carefully into the water below.
This moment is perfect, I thought to myself.
Yes, it was surrounded by many not-so-perfect moments. Especially when two cold and wet boys discovered that I was, in fact, telling the truth when I said earlier that I did not have a towel. And when a naked baby kept rolling into the mud immediately after I had cleaned her in the stream. But in that one moment, looking downstream at white bums and softly falling leaves, life was perfect.
It was after this moment that I realized I need to stop looking for illusive stretches of perfection, and celebrate the many bits of perfection that surround me. Because they are everywhere. Tucked into a bedtime cuddle, squished into a wet and sticky kiss, or dripping off a shared ice cream cone. When I look at life from this perspective, I feel very rich with perfection.
I can’t let the many difficult moments of motherhood rob me of a sense of perfection and joy.
I need to hold these wonderful moments above the chaos that surrounds the rearing of three spirited little humans. I need to prominently display these bits of perfection so they are fresh and vibrant in my mind. I need to use them to fill my glass of motherhood half full instead of half empty.
I want the light from these moments to shine through the murkiness that comes with the territory of motherhood.
Yes, my life lacks perfection and I am not a perfect mom. But I am a mom who, on a whim, let’s her kids get naked and jump into a creek. A mom who sneaks her children ice creams before dinner and almost always acquiesces to a sleepy child’s request for one more book. I am also a mom who is surrounded by an abundance of perfect little bits – little bits where all is happy and all is good.
And from these bits, I find joy.