Messy, Broken Parenting

05/13/2015 09:25 am ET | Updated May 13, 2016

My husband and I once took a parenting class. The teacher was a strict, no nonsense supernanny character. She regaled us with stories of how her 6-year-old independently got himself dressed, fed and to the bus stop for school. And he left her a note telling her this so when she woke up she saw the note and knew he was ok. She lost me at "got himself dressed." My children are 11, 7 and 3 and the only situation that would make them get up, fed and dressed without prompting and pleading and bribing would be... actually scratch that -- there is no situation I can think of. So we sat through the parenting class and I was in awe of this woman who totally had her parenting shit together. She made us go around the room and say what we wanted to get out of the class. My husband's turn came and he said, "I want to screw up less than my parents did." Our bar has always been set realistically low. Most of the parents came there to learn how to do things right, better, more effectively. We came to learn how to screw up less.

Being a parent is bizarre. These little people will die without you for the first few months. Helpless, wrinkled animals. So you feed them. And groom them. And hold them. Then they start to grow at an impossibly fast rate and become these humans with thoughts and big mouths who have an internal life you can't fully access anymore. But somehow they still can't get themselves up and dressed in the mornings.

You're expected to fix their hair and their brokenness. And what's truly bizarre is how you haven't a clue how to fix your own brokenness (or hair). So we are all muddling through and winging it and failing and trying. And the one fractal of light that you can see through all the broken shards is that there is love there. And even if the kids make you want to chew a pack of Valium gum and hide under the bed hoping their screaming will just stop- there is love here.

So I can say with 100 percent certainty that my kids will never quietly get out of bed and quietly get dressed and quietly tiptoe out to the bus stop after leaving me a note. I can say with certainty that they will be extraordinarily loud and impulsive and spill milk all over the floor followed by screaming at each other to stop breathing/chewing/existing so loudly. There will be tears and probably some form of violence. There will definitely be brokenness here. Messy, sharp brokenness.

Then we, the parents will show up and try to fix it. Having no clue what to do, we will go by instinct, which is really just modeling what you saw growing up. But then maybe you'll remember the parenting class and will try to screw up less. Sometimes you will be really good and collected and parent-y. And sometimes you will scream and say the F word and be full of ugly rage and hate. Because you're broken too.

But keep trying to screw up less. And remember that love is there. Messy, sharp, broken love. One day your kids will be in a parenting class just hoping to screw up less than you did. And they probably will.