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On Learning How to Be a Parent.


I was 5 years old and my mom had made snacks for a few of the kids in the trailer park. As one of the girls went to put her dish away it fell and it broke. Her eyes welled up with tears and she looked at my mom as if the world would collapse. Replacing dishes in our home meant more than just a trip to target. It meant thinking and saving and maybe even a few stress tears. I looked at the girl, at the dish and then at my mom. My own eyes started to swell with water as the worry built up inside of me.


Without skipping a beat my mom picked up another dish with a smile on her face, smashed it on the kitchen floor and said, “It’s just a plate sweetheart.”

My mother didn’t have time to think about whether she was making the right decision, how that would affect our experience as we grew older, who that would turn us into. Instead, she moved from a genuine belief that she held so deeply that it radiated from everything in her being. That when the time came to move without thinking, she moved from that place of deep belief. The place that said, “Everyone makes mistakes and it’s really not that big of a deal.”

25 years later and I’m a stepmom.

I cut peanut butter and jelly sandwiches into little squares with the crusts cut off.
I cuddle on the couch while talking about undersea animals and I dodge meltdowns with firm but gentle conversations about patience and gratitude and how everything really isn’t that big of a deal most of the time.

I’m plagued with the understanding that one day that little boy will be a grown man and he’ll have taken on some of my best characteristics and he’ll probably take on a few of my worst. He’ll develop in some ways because he wants to be more like us and in other ways because he wants to be anything else but who we are.

As I learn how to be a parent I often channel the best parts of my mother. I think of the first time I got a speeding ticket, I called her from yearbook class sobbing and angry with myself. I prepared to sacrifice my life for the punishment that I knew I deserved. “Mom, I have to tell you something and you are going to be so angry with me. It was stupid and I’m foolish and I can’t believe I let this happen. I got a speeding ticket, it’s going to be over $100. I don’t know what to do.” I can still hear the sweet, gentle and honest laughter that came from the other end, “Honey, we all get speeding tickets. We will figure it out. Go to the bathroom, wash your face, it’s going to be ok.”

I think of her when Ford builds a tower out of legos or books and it falls down. When he looks at me with his big eyes filled with water and an exhausted look on his face. Before the first wail exits his mouth I don’t have to think before saying, “It’s ok, we just put it back together again.”

Just like my mother, I know I won’t be perfect at this. But, I hope that if he takes anything away from our time together that he knows it’s always Ok to try and to fail. Because we’re all going to make mistakes and it’s really not that big of a deal.

with all of my love,



M o r e   i n f o