I’ll go ahead and debunk this myth right now. There’s no such thing as a perfect day. You may walk outside and see that the sky is blue, feel the sun on your back, hear birds chirping, smell freshly cut grass, and think, “Ahhh...what a perfect day”, but stuff will happen. That stuff is called life, and it’s generally imperfect. It was meant to be that way. Even Lou Reed will tell you, in his tune “Perfect Day,” that, “[He] thought [he] was someone else, someone good” as he was enjoying feeding animals in the zoo, drinking sangria in the park (which sounds absolutely perfect to this mom), and topping off his day by taking in a movie. His day was so perfect that he temporarily forgot who he was at Central Park. I can relate to that. It’s fun to temporarily forget responsibility, to cast aside routine and to feel free and nearer to perfection.
With summer nearing an alarmingly fast end I opted to take an impromptu surprise field trip with my kids to the beach this week to visit their cousin, aunt and uncle and to just try to be a better mom for a day, to escape our daily grind and to just go - an itch I get often but randomly choose to react to. When I do react to the impulsivity that blooms within me, I typically find that I should have reacted sooner. There’s a part of me that wishes I could live life more like this every day - with fewer restrictions, more fun, more sand, more car rides, less screen time for them and fewer emails for me! But we all know that these romanticized ideas come with stress and require proper planning, which can suck the fun out of any moment faster than a toddler can surprise you by secretly unrolling a fresh roll of TP into a heap.
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That day was chaotically beautiful. It was full of laughter, lots of running on the beach (as my big kids played and I repeatedly chased a fearless toddler into the harsh waves), good company, sun, sand, and fresh seafood. The only thing missing was their Daddy, who was stuck at work taking in too much screen time of his own. It was a big deal for me to make that three-hour round-trip trek for maybe a three-hour surfside stay, and I was proud of myself for surviving and proud of my kids for behaving...well, for the most part (we’ll just go ahead and forget about the sand that fell out of my boys’ britches all over my freshly vacuumed bus, the siblings’ head pokes at the restaurant, my gal teaching her younger cousin about “see food” at the table, and my toddler grabbing handfuls of salsa, shoveling it into his mouth and the aftermath). That’s what we parents do, though - we survive, because no day is perfect.
Each day is full of noise, stress, arguments, worry, accidents of all kinds, messes of all kinds, possible judgment from others, public meltdowns, bills, and surprises of all kinds, but we parents press on. After that trip I vowed to try my darnedest to not waste time and to just be.in.the.moment! It’s a hard resolution to meet, but there’s nothing quite like looking back on your day and thinking wow, our problems were all left alone just like Lou Reed’s, and to go on to think about who was in that moment with you, how very much you love them, what a gift they are, and to feel so glad you spent your day with them leaves you feeling thankful for imperfection. It opens our eyes.
As parents, it’s hard to feel this way at the end of a day as we are so focused on just making it through the day-to-day crud that life throws us, like meeting deadlines, tackling laundry, uncovering our kitchen sink, changing that stinky diaper without gagging, and sweating the small stuff like Tupperware strewn about or a broken picture frame hit by a ball that shouldn’t have been thrown in the house. It’s not worth it. This life, this crazy, messy, sticky, sweaty, whirlwind is a gift. We need to treat it more like one. We need to be thankful for imperfection, and we need to embrace our imperfection. Otherwise all that we get is discontent. We were made for relationships. We were made to be happy. We were not made to be perfect, but we were made to find the fun that makes for seemingly perfect days and to be grateful for them.
They start school in two weeks, and part of me is grateful for that as I think they’re bored and there’s only so much that I feel I can do to feed their spongy brains. The other part of me feels like his summer flew by as I was overwhelmed by juggling my kids’ camps and my part-time job while attempting to maintain this dusty house and while their little feet were growing a half inch. I am actually sad to send them back to school, but I know they need it. Maybe we’ll share a perfect day in a month or so as I grab lunch and bring it to them as their toddler brother runs amuck in the cafeteria or maybe we’ll share a perfect day as we play hooky at a museum. Who knows what fun choices life will direct us to make. I can’t wait for another seemingly perfect day, and I’ll be glad I spent it with them.