When Good Enough Turns Out to be Good AND Enough

Sometimes it’s important to push for bigger, better, stronger, fitter. More love. More truth. Deeper joy. Bring it, Life.

Other times, I am kaput. Bringing it’s been brought, and I’m wrung out. Done ditty done.

It seems like the trick is to figure out when to make the push and when to realize that good enough is good enough.

Road map, please? Anyone? A little help?

I’m generally a fan of this self-made philosophy:

I will do what I can do.
I will try to do a little bit of what I think I cannot do.
And I will forgive myself for the things that remain undone. 

But sometimes I forget, and I get caught in the push.

I have twin boys who are six-years-and-one-week-old today.

WOO to the HOO!

I love it when kids get older and more reliably wipe their own leaky body parts. No looking back, right? No weeping at times gone by! My kids are growing up, and it’s fantastic…  except for when I hate it just a little. Like late at night when Greg catches me sitting on their beds with their sleeping carcasses snuggled in my lap. “Did he need something?” Greg asks, “Did he wake up?” “No,” I whisper with my face buried in my baby’s hair, “I needed something.” And Greg nods and quietly shuts the door.

But I have twin boys who are six-years-and-one-week-old today — WOO to the HOO! — and that’s worthy of celebration no matter this mama’s occasional hang-ups about her babies getting big.

Once upon a time, I was a great kids’ party planner. I was Pinterest before Pinterest was a thing.

When my 1-year-old kid had a circus party, there was a juggler.

When my 3-year-old kid had a princess party, I hired a princess to read stories.

When my 4-year-old kid had a Dora party, Swiper swiped the whole dang party, and we donned Backpack and consulted Map to track it down.

I spent weeks planning every detail, drawing posters, and creating themed gift bags.

I know. I hardly recognize myself anymore, either. Because then I had 1,000 kids, and whew! party-planning wasn’t quite so much anymore, ya know? But still, I try to do something cool for each kid these days. To do what I can do and then a little bit more.

On Friday, though, I realized that my boys already turned six.

On Friday, they asked if they were going to have a party. And also, Mom, can it pretty please be a Pokemon Beyblades Ninjago Transformers party?

On Friday, I said, “Um, yeah. Sometime. I don’t know when, though. I’ll have to look at the calendar, and that kind of party is elaborate, guys. It takes planning.” And I also said, “we’ll see” which is like the death-knell of hope in our house.

Their faces fell, but I thought, what else can I do? There’ll have to be a Pokemon cake and Transformers decorations and Ninjago swag. We’ll need Beyblades games and I’ll have to make the invitations myself, and, and, and…

And on Friday, I realized that the only person holding back the party was me. Me and a heaping pile of my own expectations

So on Friday, I sent out a plaintext email to my kids’ friends, and I invited them to a

Pokemon Beyblades Ninjago Transformers party
(where all or none of those things may be represented… who knows??) 

And then I bought a not-Pokemon, not-Beyblades, not-Ninjago, not-Transformers pinata from the local Mexican grocery store. And cake mix and tubs of frosting. And rainbow temporary tattoos. And two bags of candy.

I dug brown paper lunch bags out of the drawer for pinata loot and wrote kids’ names on them in fading Sharpie while my teenager and her friend made dense, collapsed cupcakes by following two different sets of directions.

Yesterday, we had a birthday party that in no way resembled the Pokemon Beyblades Ninjago Transformers party of my dreams. And you know what?

The kids had a blast.

They played outside and tracked dog poop in the house.

They killed the pinata on the second swing and then gleefully pummeled it on the ground ’til everyone had a turn.

They decorated their own cupcakes, which is the most terrible and wonderful of all small child activities.

And we sent several little ones home looking like they were mauled by Rainbow Brite.

It was, officially, the very best Pokemon Beyblades Ninjago Transformers party the world has ever known.

In conclusion, I love looking at Pinterest. I do. And someday I hope to play at that level again.

But for right now, my kids feel special and important and celebrated, and that is good enough. And not just good enough in the shrug-my-shoulders, I-give-up kind of way. Nope. I’m talking both good and enough. Because it turns out that sometimes

bigger, better, stronger, and fitter
— more love, more truth, and deeper joy —
all happen when I realize
this life is already good and enough.

Also?

Happy Birthday, babies! Mama loves you loves you.

……….

Psst… do you have a story of “good and enough?” I’m all ears.

……….

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ABOUT BETH WOOLSEY I'm a writer. And a mess. And mouthy, brave, and strong. I believe we all belong to each other. I believe in the long way 'round. And I believe, always, in grace in the grime and wonder in the wild of a life lived off course from what was, once, a perfectly good plan.
30 comments
  1. I’m not sure my previous thanks went through. Your post saved me from a holiday meltdown and reminded me what was really important.

    Here’s my story . . . not sayin’ you’d have time to read it, but sharing, since you asked: https://friendlyrock.com/2012/12/19/my-preschool-hanukkah-lesson/

    Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!

  2. Your entry saved me from a holiday meltdown and made me remember what was really important. My story’s at the link. (Not sayin’ you’d have time to read it, but since you asked, I’m sharing.) And thank you, thank you, thank you!)

  3. You can’t imagine how much I needed to hear this today. I’m trying to plan my daughter’s birthday party, and while I don’t have 5 kids running around the way you do, sometimes it feels like there’s so much to do that there must be 20 people living in my house!

    I’m going to head back into party planning mode now, but with the mantra that I’m my own worst critic and the kids will love it no matter what.

    Thanks!!!
    Shawndy

  4. I’ve spent the past 2 weeks watching my three kids pass the tummy bug back and forth and catching more buckets of puke than I care to think about. It’s been all about good enough around here. Cleaning consists of lots of Lysol and bleach and laundry. Meals are bland. My sanity is paper thin. I also discovered Veronica Mars and have been binge watching it whenever possible and ignoring all things productive. My 1 year old now sings the theme song. I vow that when everyone is health and/or I run out of episodes of Veronica Mars, I might start doing all those things I ‘should’ be doing.

  5. I recently discovered your blog, and liked it so much that I snuck time to read every post from the very first through to the most recent. This comment is more on the whole blog than on this post, sorry.
    I just wanted to take the time to tell you how much I appreciate your honesty, openness, humor, and sympathy. I love the funny story posts, and when the philosophical ones became more prevalent I was a little sad at first. Then I realized that I agree with so much of what you say (though I parent in a somewhat different works-for-me way), and that it was such a relief to have someone talk about being Both/And, about being authentic with who we are, and about parenting fitting each individual parent and child without a need to judge when what works differs between families or even within a family. So few people are that brave. And I admire you, what you have done and are doing. Thanks for writing this – for you and for us, the other mommies for whom any number of kids is a lot of kids.
    You really have created a wonderful community. Case in point, I got to the post “A Double Measure of Grace” and did a little dance in my desk chair for joy that Aden is making friends (with wonderful and fitting names) and that she made it through the school year with no referrals. I actually reached for my phone to share the news with friends – before realizing that “A few months ago the daughter of a lady who writes a blog that I read came home with news of a successful school year” is not exactly a traditional thing to be excited about.
    So thank you for writing, for sharing. I look forward to following your adventures and successes here and on Facebook. God bless!

    1. Aw. Bethany, this comment made my week. Thank you. This is truly my deepest desire in writing… to create a place where we can safely be ourselves and ditch the soul-sucking idea of perfection, and to be a community of people who stand together. I’m enormously grateful you took the time to tell me.

      Cheers to another Both/And mama.

      xoxo

  6. I’m not one for big parties either, mainly because I hate playing hostess and organizing everything. I usually just make them a cake and we celebrate at home, just us. They do get a little party at school too so that makes up for the friends part.

    1. Thanks for sharing this, Mercy.

  7. I don’t ever want to read a post of yours where some bodily function or something gross like dog poop is mentioned. There’s pee and poop everywhere here so clearly you’re keeping it real.

    The whole keeping up with the proverbial Joneses is crazytown. We don’t do big birthdays. Our boys actually get to choose a daddy date which has been trips to the aquarium or children’s museum or an overnight at a hotel with a pool. They love that attention and then we eat cake as a family. They also chose a birthday cereal (sugar cereal) that they don’t have to share and you know what, that’s all good enough.

    1. Ha! Glad I usually oblige for you, Heather. 😉 LOADS of pee and poop around these parts.

      I love the special time with dad for birthdays. Our son, Ian, gets to do that this year for his 13th. A mini-trip for just the guys.

  8. One time, I had only 4 kids and a tiny baby, (2 months old) and we were poorer than you can imagine. My husband was unemployed, and pulling parts at a junkyard for probably less than $20 a day, which went to purchase something, anything to eat for that day. Easter came, but the Easter bunny didn’t. On the day following Easter though, when I got paid (not much, but it paid for shelter) I went to the supermarket and purchased some greatly reduced Easter candy. Since we didn’t have baskets, the kids circled around me with their little eyes shut and their hands held out, and I distributed the treats into each little hand. Although this sounds like a pathetic and miserable story, each of those 4 older children remember that Easter over all of the others, and they remember it fondly.

    1. Crying, crying, crying. And remembering to be grateful for food and shelter. Thank you for this, Cathie, and for sharing this part of your story. I love that your kids remember that Easter fondly… that’s credit, no doubt, to knowing their mama loves them to the moon and back. It’s not about the stuff, is it? It’s about being in this family game together.

      xoxo

  9. I love this post!

    I can relate to the cuddling sleeping kids too. 🙂 My husband on the other hand on the days when he has to work late, when he gets home WAKES THEM UP!! I could string him up for that! 🙂 But I understand his need to cuddle his kids when he’s been missing them all day. I just need to work on teaching him how to cuddle without waking them!

    Great post and great reminder to just be enough! I love one song that says something to the effect that “perfection is the enemy”.

    Thanks!

    1. Hehehe. Suzanne, your husband needs some of our Awesome Mama Ninja Skillz.

      Thanks for this. Perfection is, indeed, the enemy.

      xoxo

  10. The Internet will still be here when you’re done holding your children close. Don’t miss a thing!

    1. Barring the zombie apocalypse (which is totally coming), you’re exactly right. 😉

  11. You kids know you and the kind of awesomeness you show them when you make whatever cake mix you found or made and whatever party favors were there. They love you for making the effort! Be good to you so that you can be good to them!

    1. Kids are much easier on us than we are on ourselves. We could take a page from their book. Thanks for this comment, Brandi.

  12. This brought me to tears… right around the paragraph where you hold sleeping children in your lap. I so get it. Love your blog!

  13. I am a single Mom of 2 1/2 yr old twin boys (you remember that time, right?). When they were about 10mths old, I had a mini-breakdown (it seemed massive to me at the time). A friend was coming to town for the weekend and it just did me in. I was in tears that whole day at work because I just couldn’t do it. How was I supposed to entertain this person? My weekends consisted of pajamas, hopefully showers and, praying to God for 2 good naps a day. So Friday came and went and then it was Saturday. And I was in pajamas. And I didn’t leave the house. And I felt SO guilty. So I finally said to my friend, “..you have to go. I’m sorry, but I just feel horribly about you just sitting here with me. I feel like I should have taken you out to see some sights. It’s just that the weekends are a hope for me to catch up on some sleep (the boys had just finally gotten tubes in their ears a month earlier)…”. Well, my friend didn’t like my comments so much and left. In fact, he’s not spoken to me since. I truly hate that I lost his friendship, but I learned that I had to be GOOD to ME in order to be GREAT to my BOYS! And that is was SO OK to tell people I needed time and space and that, no, I couldn’t help you paint your living room or no, I can’t make a casserole/cupcakes/cookies/etc for the work party because I wouldn’t get to start with it until 10pm. So, to sum up, that is how I learned to be Good and Enough at the same time.

    I’m totally digging your blog.

    1. I’m so sorry to hear that your friend couldn’t find any room for some sympathy and grace for an overwhelmed, overworked, overtired mommy to twin baby boys! 🙁 Maybe he’s never had kids of his own?

    2. Michele, I am so overwhelmingly impressed with your ability to call it. So many of us let ourselves be martyrs to our lives, our expectations, our desire to please others. You are awesome, and in my book, single mommas deserve a standing ovation just for making it out of bed.

    3. Hear, hear, Michele! Good job, mama, for knowing what was right for YOU and YOUR BABIES. Mamahood is such a huge adjustment, even with a spouse in the mix to alleviate some of the pressure; I hope you honor yourself for the strength it took to let that friendship go. You did a hard, good thing in loving yourself.

      I totally dig YOU.

  14. I’m still tryin to learn this lesson. I only have one child, but each yr I’m struggling to figure out a theme & where to have it (we live in apartments, so a lot of kids running around isn’t easy). I like the idea of “every other yr”. Its my own “funness” I keep to fill because “my baby girl asked”!

    1. I spent 5 years as a mama to an only child, and I so get the “my baby girl asked” sentiments, Danie! I keep trying to fulfill my own sense of “funness” too.

  15. I only have 3 kids but it only took me a couple of years of parties to realize I couldn’t do it every year. So now they get a big friend party every other year and on the off year they get to invite one friend over for a sleepover, a movie, bowling or whatever they choose and it is much less stressful. Unfortunately it is easier to remember to do all 3 kids having parties in the same year but at least I always get to look forward to the next year.

    1. I love that there are as many different solutions to the craziness as there are families! Thanks for sharing your solution, Kristin.

  16. That quote – the “I will do what I can do…” one… it is now written in Sharpie on a post it note and adhered to the edge of my computer monitor, because I have been struggling with the “undone” part of my life. The continual, perpetual undoneness that threatens to sink me. I will repeat this quote to myself daily, several times if needed. Thank you.

    1. “The continual, perpetual undoneness that threatens to sink me” … why, yes. I know this kind of undoneness personally. Thanks, Cindee, for this comment and understanding.

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