On Mother’s Day, Letting Go of Past Imperfect

The Donovan women, circa 1994.
The Donovan women, circa 1994.
Make no mistake: no one would ever nominate the fictional Meg Carmody for Mother of the Year, especially after the desperate mom in DELIVER HER went behind her husband’s back and made an impetuous decision about her teenage daughter that would alter her family’s life forever.

But while it’s hard to applaud Meg’s actions, some among us can certainly sympathize. After all, who among us hasn’t made some missteps along the parenting journey? Among the few I will cop to publicly (besides my unflattering mullet in the accompanying photo) are a regrettable toenail-trimming episode with our older daughter when she was five, and allowing my younger child to subsist mostly on peanut butter as a preschooler.

My point is, parenting is hard, and there is no roadmap. I remember the Christmas Day in 1988 when my husband and I brought our first-born home from the hospital and set her in her Moses basket for the first time. We both looked at each other in terror as we realized the fate of this days-old person rested in our hands. We were only a little more confident and a lot more tired when we came home with the second daughter nearly six years later.

Would I love some do-overs? You bet. In hindsight, should we have allowed a nine-year-old to don a midriff-bearing “I Dream of Jeannie” Halloween costume? Perhaps not. Were we thinking clearly when, desperate for a date night, we brought the three-year-old to an evening showing of “Austin Powers,” naively assuming she would sleep through the entire film? Hardly. This lapse in judgment came back to haunt us a few days later when said three-year-old piped up from the back of a friend’s minivan: “That girl was the village bicycle; everyone wants a ride.” Next movie night, you can be sure we hired a babysitter.

I could go on and on, but you get the picture.

Like all parents, like our parents, we did the best we could. Today, our daughters are well into their twenties, pursuing paths that reflect their personalities and individuality, and we couldn’t be prouder. They rarely need our direction, but when they do, we are here.

I truly feel for today’s new parents. It’s an age when social media tricks us into believing that everyone has this parenting thing down perfectly. The truth is, no one does, but all of this seeming perfection makes it hard not to second-guess ourselves.

Me, I’ll settle for progress, not perfection. And to Meg Carmody, and all mothers out there, I say, “Happy Mother’s Day.”

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