I lost it this week. Like, really lost it.
Mary Claire and I ditched the boys and went shopping because we both needed a few things for Spring Break — flip-flops, t-shirts, shorts. The boys needed some new duds, too, but they trusted us to pick them out. They’d have rather chewed their own arms off than accompany us on a shopping excursion — especially one that included bras.
We had fun, my girl and I. We loaded ourselves up with a variety of potential outfits.
“Don’t let me pick out anything that’s too Mom-ish,” I said.
“But you ARE a Mom,” Mary Claire replied.
“Yes, but I don’t want to LOOK like a Mom,” I said.
“It might be a little too late for that,” she countered.
It was a fun afternoon together. We laughed and talked and giggled at Justin Bieber’s new fragrance line.
And then we hit the dressing room.
There’s something about a dressing room that illuminates every single bodily flaw — real or imagined. The lighting? The confined space? The expectation that new clothes will make a body look better?
I didn’t even finish trying on all my selections before I jumped back into the safety of my long sweater — the one that hides as much as humanly possible. And I was even embarrassed by the outfit I arrived in, eager to leave for the safety and anonymity of home and an old sweatshirt.
“Can I get all of these things?” Mary Claire asked, emerging from her room with an armful of clothes.
“Yes, Honey, if you need them, get them.”
“Thanks, Mom!” she gushed. “What are you getting?”
“Nothing,” I said, blinking back tears. I was ashamed of my body, disappointed in the weight I’ve re-gained. I stood in that dressing room looking at all my imperfections and thinking… I’ve failed again. I cannot keep my weight down. I cannot sustain a healthy lifestyle.
“Nothing at all?” Mary Claire asked. “What about that cute dress you found?”
“I’m getting this shirt,” I said, holding up a black v-neck tee.
“Another black shirt?” she said. “Don’t you have, like ten of those? Why don’t you get something more colorful? You look so pretty in bright colors.”
And that’s when I lost it. Right there in the dressing room, I cried in front of my young, impressionable teen.
“Black hides more,” I said. “And I feel like I need to hide right now. I’m just so unhappy with my body.”
There I stood, breaking every parenting rule that involves 13-year-old girls and healthy body image. I should have been celebrating WHO I am, not WHAT I look like. I should have been reminding her that we are not our bodies, but our hearts and souls and minds.
But all I could feel in that moment was failure. Real, painful, human failure.
“I don’t like it when you say things like that about yourself,” she said. “You’re so mean to yourself sometimes. You would never say those things to us. Why do you say them about yourself?”
Why, indeed? That’s the million dollar question.
Parenting is imperfect and flawed. That’s probably because it’s done by human beings who are imperfect and flawed. I will not always say or do the “right” things.
But here’s what I will do: When I fall short, I will admit those failures with honesty and authenticity. I will not hide the fact that I struggle, that I have some demons that continue to rear their persistent heads, that feelings — even the negative, ugly, and self-deprecating ones — are worth examining and experiencing. I will pick myself up, dust myself off, and try again. I will teach my kids that falling is okay. Falling is human and universal. It’s getting back up that’s important. Again and again and again.
Today, I’ve got a 6-mile wog on my agenda. And I’ve picked a bright, floral scarf to wear to dinner. My daughter likes it when I wear bright colors.