Monday, June 15, 2009

Don't Forget To Buckle In

Shannon, of Rocks in My Dryer, is talking about parenting advice at (where else?) today. So I started thinking, what was the best parenting advice I received? There were all the nitty-gritty details, of course: sleep when the new baby sleeps, freeze extra dinners on the weekend, don't neglect your spouse....the list goes on and on.

But, really, the best advice was one sentence spoken to me (by an experienced dad of 4, of course) when I was only 3 months pregnant with my first child. "Don't expect everything to be perfect," he said.

Don't expect everything to be perfect? Well, of course I wouldn't do that! What a nonsensical thing to say. I filed his advice in that section of my brain where I store other useless info and forgot about it.

It took 4 kids and 10 years for that valuable piece of advice to resurface. It took a decade of dealing with fussy babies and dirty diapers and screaming tantrums; a decade of watching, helplessly, as laundry and dishes piled up, and up, and up, despite my best efforts; a decade of Larry and I running ourselves ragged in an attempt to make everything run smoothly...and suddenly I heard, "Don't expect everything to be perfect."


It turns out that life with a bunch of small children is way less stressful if you expect the clean clothes to be found in the laundry baskets, and the clean dishes to be found (if you are lucky) in the dishwasher; it's much less nerve wracking if you expect that at any point of the day there will be one child whining or two children bickering or one toilet overflowing....

Some may accuse me of lowering the bar. I just call it being realistic. And if I should stumble on one "perfect" day, I will have the opportunity of being pleasantly surprised.

Hey, do any of us get on a roller coaster expecting a smooth ride? No! The whole point of the ride are the ups and the downs and the loop-de-loops. So next time things in your house start reaching your breaking level of chaos, just raise your arms in the air and yell, "Whooo-eeeee!"

I guarantee, you'll feel better. And it will definitely freak out the children.


  1. Whooo - eeeee!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I'm feeling better already. Great advice.

    The best advice my husband ever got was from the clergy that married us. He told my husband to never forget these three very special little words.

    'You're Right Dear.'

  2. I wish he had given me the same advice oh, say, 30 years ago. With a booster shot when my oldest was 15. I might have been more receptive at that point.

    Sitting here at the computer with one wall [of three] cut-in, trying to work up my courage to get back on that step stool and fire up the roller...

    Thinking it's a good thing I am taking the entire week off, because the last slice of pizza is calling my name.

  3. Hmmmm, perfect. It may come in moments, but it never comes in weeks.

  4. AnonymousJune 15, 2009

    That is why I love the Steve Martin film, "Parenthood." I'm getting better at riding roller coasters.

  5. You know, I've always found that if you set your expectations low enough, you will totally be happily surprised. FURTHER (and even better) if you set the standard for success low enough - you will soon be a SUPER STAR.

    It's what gets me through the day!

  6. I gave up on perfect a long time ago...

    I just need others to realize that the fact I do not care about the dust bunnies is a good thing!!! No one counts their dust bunnies when they are old.

  7. But what do we do with the people who seem to be perfect? What I mostly remember from the first year after my second child was born is how every other single mother seemed to have it so much more together than I did. We all need to be more forthcoming with our imperfectness, because faking it makes the truly overwhelmed feel even worse.

  8. Great advise. That should put it on a bumper sticker and hand it out to all the new Mama's as they leave the hospital!

  9. That is definitely stellar advice - even if it takes a while to sink in...

  10. Expecting a roller coaster ride is exactly the point...there Will be days of folded put away laundry...just not every is too fun to watch them grow to try to be perfect. :)

  11. I've actually done that...raised my hand in the air and yelled out "Weeeeeeeee" when things got to be too much.

    And I only have two kids...oh, plus the husband.

    I can attest that it does a Mom good and freaks out the kids and Hubby long enough to give you enough time to draw a bath or maybe read a few chapters of that book you've been neglecting.

    Be warned though, too liberal a use of such a tactic might warrant it's like they build an immunity to Mom's freak outs.

  12. The best advice I got on parenting was "keep your standards low".

    With that in mind, we have two criteria for a good day at Casa CarpoolQueen:

    1. No chalk outlines/police tape.
    2. End the day with the same number of children that you started.

  13. AnonymousJune 15, 2009

    Oh, you're a genius! This is just what I needed today, after the weekend from hell with 2 supposedly grown children (19 & 22) who tried my patience as they haven't since they were wee small (or somewhat younger teenagers). Tomorrow is my 25th anniversary and until I read this, I was wondering what exactly I was celebrating--endurance? Now I remember that it is a ride and up and down are part of it. I guess that's the "better or worse" part that we had no idea about 25 years ago. Now we know w little more... And Jenn@Juggling Life said it perfectly.

  14. Oh this is great and soooo true. I have to remind myself all the time nothings perfect... we have 4 kids ( 15 1/2, 14, 12, 10) As I get older I'm understanding to let go of trying to be the perfect mom and just live life and enjoy the ride."Whooo-eeeee!"

  15. Okay, I couldn't have read a more appropriate post right now, today! I never expect it to be perfect but too often I EXPECT, which I never should make the mistake of doing. I expect that the baby won't be fussy today, 'cause today is the day I'm GOING to get the laundry done...and I don't. I expect that today, my kids WILL listen to me, because today I will be SO focused that they can't get away from me with their usual evasion tactics...but they do, 'cause the baby fussed, the toilet did overflow, the dishwasher started to leak, my toddler got paint all over the new furniture...So tomorrow, guaranteed, I will just toss my arms up in the air, at least once, probably by about 10 in the morning and whoop, "Whooo-eeee!" And I KNOW I will freak my kids out! :) :) :) I can't wait!

    Oh, btw, I have a story for you! I just posted it and I have to say, I had you in mind as my hubby was telling me this tale. I told him, "Heh! Now I have something to blog about that will for sure give ONE lady a good chuckle!"

  16. I think Carpoolqueen's comment is hilarious. I am adopting her criteria for a 'good day'.

  17. Love it! We definitly don't run on perfect here :)

  18. I love the analogy of expecting ups and downs on a roller coaster. And yes, it seems so obvious not to expect perfection but then I was doing it anyway...trying so hard to keep up and do everything well all at once and be ever so kind and patient the whole time. As ridiculous as that is, it's a hard habit to break. But so freeing! wheeeeeee :)