My New Mantra for Messes

Mistakes shaped into words become a step from which to advance rather than a setback to look back on with regret.

Because of last week's debacle, I have a new mantra for motherhood: "I want the mermaids."

Words are powerful. Have the right words playing over and over in your head and they'll propel you forward or, sometimes, more importantly, help you to pause.

With kids, it's the pause that holds the magic. Before you react, pause. Before you correct, pause. Before you look away, pause.

Today, I paused. I got lucky. It only took a beat or two to calm down my snappy reptile brain when, again, after we'd painted, she dipped her fingers in the water and looked to see what kind of mom I would be.

Paint is messy. Childhood is messy. Motherhood is messy. We can either be messy together or I could miss the mess and her childhood by choosing to stay apart.

I choose her—and the mess she comes with. I'm sorry, E; you're stuck with me and mine.

"I want to be there for the mermaids," I'd said. They are there, but like all fantastic creatures, they're not easy to find. They hide in the shivering shadow of the perfect child. They come out to play only when the ground is wet from the debris of a toddler's tea party and the purple-tinted wash-up water of an art session gone wild (or gone child?). They do not always come when they are called, but they are there if you sit down a join them.

Today, she ran into my office sopping wet. "My dress is wet, Mommy." Pause. "I see that." No judgement. "Now I'll become a mermaid!" Pause. Logic has no place here, only love. "Yes, sweetheart, you are a mermaid." A hug and a smile are my reward. She hugs me for a long time. My to-do list is calling. Pause.      

The years go fast, they say. No pause button has power there. So I'll pause what I can, when I can. And hope that I'll see enough mermaids before they're gone.

My mermaid