I don't believe in advice. My theory is that everybody has the answers right inside of her, since we're all made up of the same amount of God. So when a friend says, "I need some advice," I switch it to "I need some love," and I try to offer that. Offering love usually looks like being quiet, listening hard, and letting my friend talk until she discovers that she already has all the answers. Since I don't offer advice, Craig and I find it funny that people ask me for it every single day. Constantly. Craig once asked what I make of that and I told him that I think friends ask me for advice because they know I won't offer any. People really just need a safe place and some time to discover what they already know.
Recently a dear friend called during a very hard day. She had made a parenting mistake. A parenting mistake is doing something opposed to what you believe is best for your children. I have a friend who is very health conscious and would call four frozen pizzas for dinner a horrible mistake, while I just call it dinner. Parenting mistakes are different for each mama. So when a friend tells me she made a mistake, I don't measure it against my beliefs and say: OH PUH-LEASE. THAT'S NOT A MISTAKE. I'll TELL YOU WHAT A MISTAKE IS, MISSY. Competing about who's the worst is as much of a drag as competing about who's the best.
In this particular case, my friend had become tired and hopeless and spanked her child. She considered this a mistake, because she doesn't believe in spanking. Please, baby Jesus, let us not debate the spanking issue. It's a mistake for some and not for others. This particular friend, who is as precious as water in a desert, was devastated. She asked me for advice. I immediately switched that to a request for love.
Then I told her what I do when I make a big or little parenting mistake, which is several hundred times a day.
I try to remember two things:
1. Who I am, and...
2. My most important parenting job.
First, I remember that I am a human being. And human beings make mistakes, almost constantly. We fall short of what we aim for, always. We get impatient. We get angry. We get selfish. We get freaking sick and tired of playing pet store. That's okay. It's just the way it is. Can't change it. Will always forevermore be. I'm human. Can't fight it. An elephant's gotta be an elephant and people gotta be people.
Then I remember what my most important parenting job is. And that is to teach my children how to deal with being human. Because most likely, that's where they're headed. No matter what I do, they're headed toward being jacked-up humans faster than three brakeless railroad cars.
There is really only one way to deal gracefully with being a jacked-up human, and that is this:
It's not a once and for all thing, self-forgiveness. It's more like a constant attitude. It's just being hopeful. It's refusing to hold your breath. It's loving yourself enough to offer yourself a million more tries. It's what we want our kids to do every day for their whole lives long, right? We want them to embrace being human instead of fighting their whole lives against it. We want them to offer themselves grace. Forgiveness and grace are like oxygen -- we can't offer it to others unless we put our masks on first. We have to put our grace masks on, mamas. We gotta breathe it in deep. We gotta show 'em how it's done. We have to love ourselves if we want our kids to love themselves. We don't necessarily have to love them more, we have to love ourselves more. We have to be gentle with ourselves. We have to forgive ourselves and then ... oh my goodness ... find ourselves sort of awesome, actually, considering the freaking circumstances.
A well-known parenting magazine recently asked me to write an advice column for them. "About what?" I asked. "About how to raise happier kids," they answered. "Jeeeeez," I responded, "I don't know. I think the kids are all right. I'd rather help make mamas happier."
"It's a good point," they said.
I just want us to remember that when we became mamas we didn't change species. We're still humans. I mean, we're badass humans, for sure, but humans nonetheless. We make mistakes, all day, and that's good. We want our children to see that. We want them to learn how to handle mistakes, because that's really the only important thing to learn: We expect to make mistakes, we say we're sorry, we forgive ourselves, we shrug and smile, and we try again.
It's a good system. It creates graceful, interesting, peaceful, forgiving, jacked-up humans.
And don't forget ... in this forgiveness system, we get forever tries. We never run out of tries.
Parenthood is Forever Tries.