Last night’s This Is Us pulled some major heartstrings for moms and dads alike. As a mom, I don’t know a counterpart out there who doesn’t second-guess her mothering abilities and wonder if she is doing enough to nurture and love her kids. When it comes to our failures, whether colossal or minor, many of us lay awake and steep in regret for nights on end.
Mom guilt is palpable, our insecurities are rampant, and our desire to do all the things for our kiddos (at a gold standard no less) is fierce. But pawning for perfection is a futile exercise. Some days we’re just going to blow it. Big time. We’re going to fly off the handle, cave to exhaustion, and/or sink into depression among a cadre of other not so great reactions. If I’ve learned anything over 25 years of parenting, the key to pushing through our disappointments and dismay is to focus on all the things we do right. Mainly, all the love we give.
If we force ourselves to look beyond our worst moments and into the vastness of our mothering in its entirety, we’re bound to find hope in the collective uprush of our affection and adoration despite the downrush of our weaknesses and human faltering. We can count on love because love defies gravity.
Last night, Randall reminded us of the importance of having such a hope-filled mindset. While visiting his childhood home with Kate, they both reminisced about a particular day shared with their dad, Jack, when they were 11 years old. Jack was in emotional turmoil over a fallout with his brother and didn’t have the strength or mental energy to play the father role with Randall and Kate. I can’t count how many times I’ve been in his shoes.
As the day went on with Jack attempting to battle his demons, he eventually caved to his suffering and snapped at Kate for the mess she and Randall made all over the living room floor. After walking away in anger, Jack became unhinged completely and shattered a plate against the kitchen wall. The scene was powerful and lit up a movie reel in my mind that projected similar scenarios I’ve experienced over the years. My heart felt heavy for Jack, and his kids as all three of them stood stunned in the kitchen, their insides full of hurt and confusion.
How often do we find ourselves in these situations as moms? When life becomes too much to process, and the overload takes the legs of self-control right out from under us? As much as we long to be prepared for anything and everything, to have the emotional wherewithal to remain calm and collected, sometimes the agonies, hardships, and frustrations of life unravel the best of us. Being human is complicated regardless of our best intentions.
Jack came back around and apologized to Kate and Randall for yelling and losing his cool. He diffused the heaviness by catching the kids off-guard and starting a sequins fight. He was showing Randall and Kate that his earlier anger wasn’t about them—it was about him. His willingness to create his own mess on the same living room floor affirmed that his love for them far outweighed any disappointment.
As adult Kate and Randall discussed the infamous day further, Kate questioned whether she was misremembering the event. Her memory was of the happiness and joy surrounding the sequins fight, while Randall remembered their dad yelling at Kate and breaking a plate. Randall was quick to point out to Kate the kind of hope that echoes in all our hearts as parents:
“(Our contrasting memories) means Dad did a good job. You remember the good stuff. We’ve all had bad days as parents. I’ve had some doozies. You will, too. All you can do as a parent is try to pack the days with as much good stuff as possible and hope it outweighs the bad. You hope that the good stuff sticks. That’s what Dad did for us.”
Oh, do we ever hope the good stuff sticks. And it will if love paves the way. It’s always been my hope and prayer that all the good I’ve done as a mom seeped into my kids’ veins, even if a few of their arteries were clogged by my failures along the way.
One thing I know for sure is that I did my best, even at my worst. Doing our best means we loved. And if we love, we can’t fail our kids. Love always sticks.