Let Them See You Fail

Before you lay eyes on your first child, the fear and the regard they hold in your heart is palpable. The thought of failing them before they are even born can send your nerves into a tailspin. So the staunch resilience to NEVER fail them is born. All, or at least most parents go into this venture with banners waving toward certain victory.

I remember bringing my daughter home from the hospital, this fragile, tiny little creature, perfectly formed, and now exposed to this new world full of germs, loud noises, sharp edges, blunt objects, and cold surfaces. My victory banner waving as I placed her wet wipes down my top to warm them up to body temperature, the diaper change a sacred moment dedicated to maintaining the perfection of this flawless human.

On the second or third night, she wouldn’t stop crying. My husband and I unsteadily looked at our banner, faltering a bit in its impossibility. My mother in law came calmly up the stairs in the middle of the night to ask us if she could help us. Let me point out the wording of this previous sentence so you can understand her intent, because how the words are arranged matters. She asked if she could help us: “May I help you?” this was very intentional and very different from “Do you need help?” and it’s worth noting because she knew what was happening, and we did not.

We bowed to her superiority in this modality of life and watched with baited breath. How would she diffuse this wailing noise that is bouncing off of the walls and into center of our soul? She gently picked the baby up and placed her on the changing pad. It had been a while since we had changed her, but we didn’t think that we would need to change diapers in the middle of the night! what a waste of diapers, it’s just pee! She calmly removed her diaper and pointed out the rash that had appeared on our daughter’s perfect and delicate skin. And just like that, our banner came tumbling down in a heap on the ground and we began the real journey into parenthood.

The moment you realize that you can not possibly maintain the perfection is when the real parenting begins.

The lesson she taught us that night went so much deeper into it than just showing us how and when to change a diaper, but her manner never judged us for being ignorant to what was happening. She taught us the subtle art of forgiving ourselves in our folly. This is one of the most important lessons you will ever learn as a parent: You will fail.

As our children grow, I look forward to my little failures. They provide opportunities to grow, and in turn, teach my kids what I learn from them. I think it’s important for our children to see us fail, lose our temper, Be wrong, handle a situation poorly, stumble, argue, and make a fool of ourselves. It helps them understand that we are not perfect, and by doing that, we are teaching them a valuable lesson that they are not perfect, and don’t need to be, either.

Now I look back on the night that we unknowingly fostered a raging diaper rash and started our real journey into parenting with the confidence of the mother I’ve become. I’ve been through some stuff and managed to make it through to the other side, grabbing some knowledge and wisdom as I’ve traveled this road of imperfections.

I know I have a ways to go and some real challenges ahead of me, but now I have the confidence to face it because I already know I’m going to fail my children in so many shapes and sizes and I can’t wait to see what we learn from those failures.

for more Parenting thoughts: check out Farts, Consent, and Body Autonomy.

Previously published on “A Parent Is Born”, a Medium publication.

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Photo credit: Andrej Lišakov on Unsplash