I wish Tim Gunn could live with me. Specifically, I wish that every time I felt like a complete mommy failure, the fabulous Project Runway star could just appear, a stoic presence in some cute little pinstripe suit, all six foot two of him, bearing his usual words of wisdom and a clean pocket square to dry my tears with. He would pick me back up, outfit my children in looks fit for Suri Cruise, and -- voila! -- we'd make it work together.
This idea recently came to me when a good friend, about to have her second child, asked me for my best advice for handling two kids together. I quickly recalled one day in particular when my youngest was still a newborn. One afternoon, my older daughter, who was still mastering potty training, ran into my bedroom, saying, "Mommy, mommy, mommy! I can't...." -- and then she peed all over herself in front of me. I had a newborn baby stuck to one boob and couldn't do a darn thing about it. At the time, a dear friend of mine texted me, "At least you know urine is sterile," and somehow, that made me laugh and I was able to make it work. When I finished feeding one child, I was up and getting paper towels and fresh clothes for my other kid. It's just what you gotta do.
We all have our own "make it work" moments and stories. My mother-in-law likes to tell me about the time she was ridiculously exhausted, like near comatose, and watching six kids at once (her four, her sister's two) one afternoon. She dozed on the sofa while they drew in crayon on her new wallpaper. Her thought, before she let her eyes close: "I can always paint over it." She made it work, people.
It's what we all do as parents. We make it work. Every day. Whether we go to work or stay home, whether we juggle one, two or more than three kids. Whether we live in houses, apartments, on communes or campsites. We all have to make this thing called parenting work.
So, here's where Tim Gunn comes in. He's always trying to get the Project Runway designers to see that even if they lack the proper supplies (who knew taffeta was so pricey?) or don't have enough time to finish sewing, there's always something else that can be done to make the situation work. And if it's not perfect, that's OK, too.
Is your little one pooping in her pants on the playground? Make it work, he'd say.
Toddler kicking you in your pregnant belly and yelling, "I don't want a new sister"? What's that you hear? "Make it work."
Eleven o'clock on a work/school night and your kids are still awake? Oh, you actually need to get some "actual" work done? You know what I'm gonna say: "Make it work."
Nobody wants a bath? Make it work, my friends.
Your kids' babysitter tells you she doesn't know who Punky Brewster is when you reference the '80s child star. You old hag! Stop crying and make it work!
I cannot count the multitude of times when I need to just make stuff work -- because anyone with kids knows from experience that you cannot plan worth shizz when it comes to kids. Someone gets all cranky, someone's wheels start to come off in the middle of a grocery store aisle, someone gets puked on, and that's it! Plans? Out the door!
That's when it's time to channel an inner Tim Gunn and say to no one in particular (or, heck, say it to that crazy lady who just told you your daughter needs to be wearing a hat in this weather!), "I can make it work."
Take me this morning. I woke up to my 5-year-old flicking my nipple and asking in a snarky voice, "Mom, what's this thing?" She had pulled down my pajama shirt and was just staring at me. Later, her younger sister let forth an epic Number Two during a close commute on a crosstown bus.
Guess what I did? I called upon my inner Timmy G and I made it work.
In all seriousness, though, wouldn't life be so great if we could just make it all work? If we could actually be OK with whatever came our way while parenting -- instead of fighting the incessant urge to control everything?
Why, as parents, are we so worried about this concept? Making it work means admitting defeat, in a way, doesn't it? But it doesn't have to.
Throwing on the TV instead of reading three books aloud because you actually have something else you need or want to do while you're with your kids? Why do we, as a culture, think of this as akin to showing the kids porn or feeding them cat food for dinner? We are that crazed about being perfect parents that we can't just let stuff work the way it's gonna work sometimes.
And, you know what, it's not gonna always work the way we want or hope or ever expect.
What Tim Gunn (and anyone else who tries to "make it work") is actually telling us to do is to forgive ourselves, to accept our greatest parenting triumphs and the things we perceive as the fails. Tim Gunn says "make it work" -- and we can be confident that we can and will. The only one who can make this parenting thing work is you.
So, next time the parenting racket has got you down, get back up and make it work, people! We've got a runway show to produce and some kids to raise!
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