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Confessions of a Trainwreck Mommy
by Reese A. Vinson

If you can't relate to my super-power (ie: human trainwreck), I'm sure you would at least recognize me in an instant. I'm the mom who hasn't figured out that church starts at the same time every Sunday, and it's usually an even number.  The mom who gets a parking ticket at story time because I totally forgot to put money in the meter. I'm the one wearing the fresh coffee stain, apologizing to a friend for being late for yet another play date... And I'm not proud of the number of times I've accidentally walked into something while holding my sweet baby!!

But I'm not talking about the adorable kind of self-described trainwreck you see on tv; the beautiful teens/Bachelor contestants who keep telling everyone how awkward they are- blushing away their clumsiness and pretending not to think everyone is falling in love with them... There's nothing cute about how it feels when you try every day (or at least most days) to keep it together and the end result is always a combination of tardy, stained(food/drink/don't ask), and forgotten (phone/wallet/socks/kid <-- worst case scenario).  But at some point I realized that maybe living life as a walking disaster is just part of a grand calling...like brain surgery, only it's ok to show up late for it.

I won't pretend to have any research to back my claim, but I did see a blog post recently about how everyone should have a Hot Mess Mom for a friend... (naturally I saw that post, because I was tagged in it) ...but I was tagged with love by a close friend, and I took great pride as I read it. The gist of that post was that the friend you have that never has it together has a lot more to offer than what meets the eye. (Here's a link for the whole thing: https://www.romper.com/p/10-reasons-a-hot-mess-mom-is-the-best-friend-everyone-needs-20581)

I loved reading about the virtues of the 'hot mess' friend, because I definitely recognized them in myself: not judgey, exceptionally genuine, fabulous alibi, etc. But what I loved more than anything was the realization that I'm not the only one of my kind...!! So I wanted to offer the other side of that perspective, to help explain how it feels to be that mom who really REALLY wants to set a good example for her kid- as soon as she can find her car keys so they can make it out the door less than 15 minutes late...

One of my more profound train wrecks (as a parent) took place recently in the Target make-up aisle.

 I had just taken my almost 2 year old to toddler time at the Botanical Garden, and I needed to grab 2 things from the store on our way home. (Neither of which was in the make-up aisle). My daughter was happy. She had a fun morning, a full stomach, and we still had a solid 45 minutes before nap-time, so it wasn't completely unreasonable to think she could keep it together for 10 of them... But as we passed the make-up aisle, our magical morning quickly went up in smoke. Because the make-up aisle has so many bright colors and fun shapes! And for some ridiculous reason, this particular make-up aisle has all of the lipstick at a perfect toddler arms' length. So on our way to grab an avocado and paper towels, my child took a detour to hurl herself towards the lipstick, grabbing as many as she possibly can, and ripping the lids off (plastic wrap and all) to shmeer all over her face while I watched in horror.

If you're wondering why I was just watching, the simple answer is that I was totally shocked. I don't wear lipstick unless it's like Christmas, (who needs lipstick at toddler time?!) so it never occurred to me that my daughter would know what it was, or how to use it!!  And on the other hand, I was caught between a rock ('wanting to be a good parent') and a hard place  ('not wanting it to look like child abuse'). {This, in my non-expert opinion, is the most commonly visited place in public parenting, and it's a terrible one!!} I knew that if I tried to take the lipstick, she would fight back, and I would have to restrain her, which would involve a lot of flailing, and could potentially hurt her AND look awful to any witnesses. But I also knew that if I had to buy every lipstick she opened, the store would quickly find insufficient funds in my checking account with which to pay...  

So I did what any excellent mother would do, and I used my body as a  shield to protect the lipstick from her tiny hands.  Within seconds, this initiated a meltdown like nothing I'd ever seen.(Imagine a ski slope yard sale, add lipstick and tears, and turn up the volume!!)  And while it may seem like I'd been defeated by a person who was literally 1/30 my age...In that moment I felt like I had almost won, because all I had to do now was clean up the mess in aisle 9, and scoop up the kid for a quick sprint to the produce section (paper towels were now a luxury we could forego) and check out.

But before I could even begin my dissent towards the finish line, I suddenly realized the judgment that had become palpable coming from all sides. There were no friendly smiles or knowing nods. No standard one-liners from well-meaning parents. Only looks of sheer horror at my child who was (still) face-down on the floor with an open tube of lipstick in one hand screaming bloody murder. 

I felt so much shame- for the first few seconds. But then I realized...who WERE these people?!? Was it "expert parents with perfect kids" shopping day at Target and they forgot to tell the rest of us not to come?? Because like 4 of the 20 Honorable Judge Jane's had kids with them, and I'm sure it was their expert parenting that resulted in quiet, well-behaved children who were sitting on their bright red pedestals (with their little safety belts still buckled) judging my yard sale. And maybe that's the case. Maybe it takes excellent parents to raise children who do- actually-always behave with dignity in public, and it wasn't just a good day. And in that case, I hope they all get a certificate of achievement from Target...or from the national association of retailers or WHOEVER for nailing parenting!! But While I can admire and respect whatever theory these moms and dads have subscribed to- it's clearly lost on me. So I can accept the fact that I'll never get that certificate, and I don't need it. I'm so far from perfect, and my sweet child is right there with me, but she sure is cute, and God knows she means well...!! 

So in that moment, I forgot about the finish line and the avocado and just sat down on the floor with my daughter. I put the 2 most obviously damaged lipsticks aside to purchase, and when she lifted her tiny wet face off the ground to look at me with crocodile tears in her eyes, I smiled at her and said "you look beautiful." And I meant it!! Four shades of lipstick, hair matted to her forehead, and dirty floor funk on her beet red cheeks...and still the prettiest face I've ever seen. And the hug she gave me right then meant more than any certificate could ever compare to. In that moment I remembered that her tiny brain is growing perfectly to make her a strong, smart, independent woman, and all she needed was to feel loved and safe...and THAT is something I can do!!

We did eventually get the avocado, and next Christmas I'll have 2 new shades of semi-flattened lipstick to choose from... but I left Target that day with something else: the knowledge of how it felt to be mortified in public and judged by strangers for the one job I thought I was doing really well. That day I made a promise to myself to always be the parent I'd wished to see in that moment... with a gentle smile, a cheesy joke, a knowing glance or even (heaven forbid!) a helping hand. If I ever see a mom on the floor of any make-up aisle, I promise I'll get on my hands and knees with her and help put the caps back on the lipsticks....because I know how much it would have meant to me if just one person had shown me any kindness.

And the reason I know about those one-liners and knowing smiles is because I've been given so many of them over the past 2 years. (Well, that and unsolicited advice from strangers but I digress). Really, in most situations I've found myself as a mom, I've almost always felt uplifted or supported- so that day at Target was a rare exception, and an important lesson for me: that some people are self righteous A- holes, and their opinions mean diddly squat.

To all of the parents who may read this and worry about the many diseases my daughter was exposed to whilst on the floor that day, I can ease your fears by assuring you that her immune system has been thoroughly conditioned over the course of many public floors and restrooms by this point. But I also want you to know how much I respect and admire the way you make it look easy to have it all together. I can make light of my own flaws as a parent (ok, 'person'), but I'll never take away from how hard I know you work, and the awesome job you're doing!! 

And to all of the other train wreck moms & dads out there, I hope that you know your worth. We have such an important role in this life, and it's not just making everyone else look good... (you're welcome, friends!!) Our job is to bring light and levity to even the most obnoxious of days, because we've survived enough wreckage by now to stop taking it all so seriously. And more importantly, our job is to raise charming young children who laugh more often than most, and grow up to be slightly more pretentious than we will ever be, because they won't want to be that trainwreck parent who embarrassed them so many times over the years!! 

Cheers between disasters!!

February 07, 2017 by Bonnie DiCocco



Suzanne said:

Amen to everything you wrote! Awesome perspectives, I wish I knew more people who see things the way you do :-)

Linda Griner

Linda Griner said:

WOW! I had tears of laughter rolling down my face reading this! You nailed how I have felt in public with a screaming little one !

Susan Whittle

Susan Whittle said:

I just laughed and laughed and said this is so Reece!! You do a great job and have the prettiest little daughter there is!!

Debbie Jennings

Debbie Jennings said:

This is why I love you so!!!!

Lisa Cundey

Lisa Cundey said:

Honey you are doing a great job. Your daughter was adorable tonight and so happy to be with everyone at the party. I was definitely a train wreck Mom, and look how great my son turned out to be. Just be yourself and love, love, love that baby girl, and everything will turn out better that you could ever hope for.

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