Finding Space to Get It Wrong

Making room for making mistakes

There is no such thing as the perfect parent.

Those of us who write about our lives cannot help but put our best face forward. Even when we write honestly (and I always try and write as factually and as emotionally honestly as I am capable), this very fact becomes part of the image we put forth. When we write about parenting, we place our great mistakes in the role of life-lesson learned instead of some run-of-the-mill screwup we made because we were tired, or cranky, or just plain blew it.

Sometimes, many bloggers just make it up. The perfect marriage. The perfect kids. The lessons imparted from every venture to the top of some mountain, or to a volunteer cause.

Or from a brand everyone is just delighted and honored to work with.

Last week, Josi Denise called shenanigans, and while it rang a bit “Bye, Felicia,” she called us parenting bloggers out in a way we need to be called out. She admitted to faking it. She called out industry, and fellow bloggers. She pulled apart what used to be a writing venture and has turned into a cottage industry: the “mommy blog.” I don’t exempt us dads from it, either. We’re just not quite as marketable, except as morons who would rather let their babies sit in their own feces for three hours while the big game is on.

I don’t write “sponsored posts” (read: commercials) and I never, ever will. I abhor a branded “twitter party” (read: long-form audience participation ad – “Q1. How does being Zestfully Clean make you feel confident during those stressful mommy hours?”) and have muted or unfollowed every account I can find that participates them. I’m not sure I exactly fit into the culture Denise called out, but I’m not sure I don’t – and it got me thinking about the things about which I *don’t* want to blog.

Like the time I accidentally grabbed a poorly-labeled bottle of 1/2 strength hydrogen peroxide and used it to flush my then-toddler’s feeding tube instead of the nearby sterile water. Or the time the same tube got caught on the straps of her carseat as I was taking her out of the car, and I accidentally ripped it out. Or the time she told me she couldn’t breathe right, and I trusted the numbers on a machine instead of listening to her, and she ended up in the hospital with pneumonia.  Or the times early on in dating where I disappeared because I wasn’t interested or was too overwhelmed by life and just couldn’t date anymore. Or the times when I fell in love with women who were completely unavailable to me. Or the times after my divorce when I was so bad at dating I self-destructed good relationships. Or the times I couldn’t separate the enormity of dadding a special needs kid from the need to be good at work and instead of asking for help I just flailed poorly at everything.  Or the time I stayed with a woman who was entirely wrong for me because it felt preferable to being alone. Or the inability to invest in friendships the way they need to be nurtured because of a lack of emotional energy. Or the digitally-dusty half-memoir sitting in the cloud without progress. Or the bags of chips and extra tacos that gained back the weight I lost. Or any number of other daily disappointments we foist upon ourselves.

There are not lessons in these. There is no neat 500-word summation that leaves us with a greater understanding of the world at large. There isn’t a smile in the sudden ray of sunshine breaking through the clouds and illuminating the dust motes floating through the windows because I didn’t have enough energy left after doing everything else a single parent has to do and also to dust. They are just things that happen.

Sometimes, we just fuck up.

Maybe we should write that more often, instead of portraying everything as rosy or illuminating. Maybe we need to write all of reality. Maybe the flailing about for an anchor is the meaning. Maybe I wouldn’t be so worried about it if I was Zestfully clean.

Maybe we all need to give ourselves the space to make mistakes, and the freedom to leave them as what they are: transient, sometimes hurtful, and maybe even devoid of meaning. Even to our sponsors.