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The Perfect Resolution

Every year, for the past twelve years, I have made the same New Year’s Resolution, and every year, by January 2nd, I have failed to keep it.  It’s not to wake up at 4 a.m. to exercise, or to eat only grapefruit and steel cut oats for breakfast, or even to pray for ten minutes each morning, though these are all admirable goals (but grapefruit?  Seriously?).  My resolution – the one I want so desperately to keep, and the one that seems the most impossible – is to be a perfect mom.

It’s not that I think I’m a “bad” mother.  I do my best.  I get up before 5:00 every morning to feed and entertain the baby, do laundry, fix school lunches, cook a hot breakfast, and in general help my four kids prepare for the day.  With a ten year old whom I have to send back upstairs three times to retrieve various articles of clothing he forgot to put on, and a six year old with autism who noisily begs to eat more pancakes than he is allowed, my mornings grow stressful very quickly.  Before I know it, I have lost my temper and snapped at someone, and … there goes the dream.  Perfect mother, I am not.

Other moms make it look so easy.  In the school drop-off line, I watch them walking their children into the building and feel envious.  You know who I’m talking about: The women with perfectly arranged hair, wearing perfectly tailored outfits, with perfectly dressed kids whose socks match and who managed to find both their hats and gloves that morning and are actually wearing them.  These moms seem so pleased, so content.  I’ll bet they never burn biscuits or fuss at kids over misplaced shoes or forget to sign their child’s Tuesday folder.  I look at them and think, Could I, if I worked really, really hard, ever be that flawless?

Then I look at my ten year old son, who is wearing one striped sock and one solid, whose shoelaces have come untied, who is sporting his favorite DUDE! toboggan but only one mitten because the other, of course, is lost again.  Humming to himself, he yanks on his backpack and stumbles onto the sidewalk, and I have to remind him to grab his lunchbox, which he almost always leaves in the back seat.  It would be so easy if he were more responsible, I think, because I could focus less on reminding him to do things and more on my quest for perfection.  But then he turns and flashes his sweet smile at me, showing the chocolate milk stains on his upper lip and the endearing gaps between his teeth, and something inside me melts as I smile back.

I am not perfect, but I definitely am loved, and that’s so much better.

And so I have started 2016 with a different Resolution, one that allows me to ease back on my self-criticism and instead focus on the pleasures of being a mom.  I resolve to let go of the guilt that has, in the past, controlled my every thought, making me worry about every single moment with my children rather than enjoying it.  I will accept that I cannot be perfect.  I will accept that there will be days when I pack lunch boxes without a single fruit or vegetable, or when I serve cold cereal for supper, or when I snap at my kids for trying to delay bedtime by asking for one more sip of water.  I will do my best, but I will let go of the self-hatred that comes with not meeting my unrealistic expectations.  After all, that is part of God’s plan, and his plan, thankfully, is perfect.

Jessie Tucker Mitchell

Jessie Tucker Mitchell graduated from UNC Chapel Hill with Honors in English and Creative Writing. She has written dozens of articles for various publications, including Carolina Alumni Review, Our State, Business North Carolina, Cat Fancy, and babyzone.com. She lives in Winston-Salem with her husband, Robert, and their children Elsa, Truman, Fletcher, and Archer. Fletcher has autism, so autism awareness is an important part of their lives. Jessie and Robert feel incredibly blessed to be members of Reynolda Church.

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