In my previous life I was a middle school girls’ athletics coach. Middle school, y’all. Isn’t it hilarious? They were not nearly as funny as they thought they were, but they still made me laugh every day. As a twenty-something fake-adult fresh out of college, we basically raised each other for a couple of years. They are now in college. And I am officially not young and cool anymore.
I had the unique and holy opportunity to speak life into those girls during the single most awkward period of their lives, albeit much less awkward than my own middle school years thanks to YouTube beauty tutorials.
One thing I preached almost every practice was “STOP BEING TOO COOL TO TRY HARD.” For so many of those 13-year-old girls, their biggest fear was failing in front of their peers. They didn’t want it to hurt if they lost, or missed the shot, or played terribly, or sat the bench. So they played the cool card, checked out, and chose to fail.
Because there’s no embarrassment in that. They could tell all their friends how they didn’t even try, and didn’t even care.
So we would talk about all the things they were missing out on. How they had this crazy potential they would never realize. How someday they’d look back and wonder how good they could’ve been and how far they could’ve gone. How failing is inevitable. How it makes you better, stronger, wiser, more resilient.
Sometimes I wonder if we moms have made it cool to not try hard. We make fun of the fact that we let our kids watch TV all day. We laugh about how our kids were horrible at the grocery store. We vent about how they annoy us and all the other moms nod along and throw up praise hands.
And hear me, I think so much of that is awesome. I love that we don’t have to pretend we are perfect. I so appreciate the dialogue of stop comparing, stop Pinteresting, stop competing, stop judging. It’s good stuff, and in this age of social media, so desperately needed.
But balance and hitting sweet spots is so hard in life. Sometimes we push on the pendulum so hard it flies past vertical and begins an upward ascent, gaining momentum towards the opposite extreme. And sometimes I wonder if we’ve swung too far on this one.
And if I’m being honest? Sometimes I use other mom’s honest confessions as an invitation to care less, to be fine with just being fine. “Why, thank you for telling me that. Now I don’t feel so bad about the fact that I’m sitting on my tush eating chocolate chip cookie dough watching Netflix while the laundry pile is scraping the ceiling, the kitchen smells like rotting fish, and my kids are still watching movies 4 hours later in their bedrooms.” Well… maybe I should.
I wonder if this YOU DO YOU thing we’ve got going on makes it hard for us to admit the moments we do need to try harder and be better. Sometimes we do need help. We do need advice and guidance from other moms. Sometimes we just plain suck. And in those moments, instead of being fine with our suckiness and shaming anyone who dares “judge” the way we are doing things, what if we said, “Today was not my best, but tomorrow will be better. Will you help me be better?”
I don’t want to be too cool (and too prideful) to care about raising my kids well, the single most important job I’ve got right now. This is a big deal. And if there’s room for improvement (which undoubtedly there is, for you and me both), I want you to tell me. Kindly. Face to face (talking to you, internet trolls).
I don’t want to look back and regret the effort I gave. I don’t want to lament the days I spent sitting on the couch creating wine memes instead of watching my daughters twirl around the living room in their tutus, or the mornings I spent scrolling through Instagram instead of coloring fire trucks with my son.
I care. It’s hard to care. Sometimes I don’t want to care, but it’s too important not to. I’m going to try hard at this and I want you to, too. And if we fail, let’s at least go down swinging for the fences.