On Letting Those We Love Be Perfectly Themselves

I took the last 2 kids to school this morning and everyone was dressed including, I think, wearing socks and underwear.

Except me.

I was still in my nightie but decided that throwing a t-shirt over it and leggings under it and finding mismatched flip flops and not brushing my hair or putting on make-up counted as “dressed” since I would be well-hidden inside my van.

Of course, the children never actually close the van door when they get out at school, racing as they are to make it inside the building in the final 11 seconds before they’re late (which counts as on time, in case anyone’s wondering), and so, despite hollering CLOSE THE DOOR out the window at them, I always face this choice:

a) Hop out of the van in my fashion-forward ensemble in front of the school and all the other frantic, rushed, last-minute parents who are in a hurry and want me to move my car already since they have only 6 seconds now ’til their kiddos are late late late… and close the door, and dash back around the car to hop in the driver’s seat, and promise myself I’ll get up earlier tomorrow (earlier than 22½ minutes before school starts, anyway), and be more organized overall, and for once make more for breakfast than Just Find Something in the Cupboard, Kids,


b) Try to shimmy out from underneath the steering wheel and vault into the back seat over the center console while not kicking over the cup of melted ice cream from 2 days ago, or stepping on the first grader’s precious and irreplaceable favorite stick which is almost completely hidden under protein bar wrappers and discarded coats and school papers and goldfish crackers so I can grab the door and shut it without stepping foot outside. And then, you know, reverse my course to fit myself like a 3-D puzzle piece back into the driver’s seat underneath the steering wheel while all the other frantic, rushed, last-minute parents want me to move my car already and … well, you get the idea.

This morning, I picked option b and executed it flawlessly.

Then I drove home, walked in the house, breathed a sigh of relief, opened a new bag of coffee beans, and set them carefully on the counter where they spilled anyway with a terrific, cascading crash as the beans skittered all over the floor. The sound was actually quite beautiful. The next sound was aw, sshhhit.


I had an anxiety attack last night. Not the kind where I feel anxious. The kind where my body pays no attention to the fact that I feel fine and decides to respond like I feel anxious anyway.


It’s like my body goes, “You’ve been feeling good lately, right? Pretty much totally functional? Nothing setting you off? Meds working well? Yeah; that’s weird and CANNOT BE. So, here, Beth; here’s a racing heart, for old time’s sake, and extremely sensitive skin, and – just for fun, fun, FUN – the general suspicion that you’re doomed and the world is doomed and, specifically, your children are doomed, and, also, you’ll never be well. P.S. Greg is blowing his nose that way on purpose. At you.”

And then my body cackles like the evil step mother in every Disney film, all high-pitched staccato and gleeful mockery.

Gosh, I love that.


In other words, it’s been a completely normal couple of days, and the only real downer is I have to keep dealing with me. It’s as though I’m always here, never fully put together and perpetually needing something or spilling something or feeling something. Blerg. And, well, I just wish sometimes that I’d give me a break and shush for a while, you know? Let me rest.

Thomas Merton wrote:
“The beginning of love is to let those we love be perfectly themselves.”

This is one of the great keys to parenting; letting these little and big people we love be fully themselves, which is perfect. And imperfect. And perfect.

If there’s one thing my twins have taught me, in fact – twins who are very, very different despite being raised in the same chaotic environment – it’s that kids are who they are who they are. We parents can challenge them and champion them and channel them, hopefully for good, but we cannot – and I’d go as far as to say we must not – change them. Not at their core. Because they are, like every last one of us, divine. Made in Love’s own image. And also deeply flawed. Perfect. And imperfect. Which is perfect.

The beginning of loving our weird, wonky, wild, wonderful families is to let them be themselves.

But if that’s true – if people are who they are who they are – if we’re all flawed perfection, then I have to face the inescapable truth that I am, too. And so are you. At our core, we’re divine. And worthy of being loved exactly as we already are.

The beginning of love is to let those we love be perfectly themselves.

And so the beginning of loving myself is to let me be myself.


My mad, muddy, magic, mundane self.

The bad news is we’re always at the beginning. Always at the start of the race. Always learning to love people – including ourselves – for who they really are, and never perfect at the already loving of them.

But the good news is new beginnings are allowed every minute. Every second. And the beginning we can do. It’s our only job. To begin. And begin again. And begin again. And then to let those we love be. Perfectly themselves.



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15 responses to “On Letting Those We Love Be Perfectly Themselves”

  1. I have been following your blog for three months and have never commented, but today I just had to say “thank you.” Although I live on the opposite side of the country and reside in one of the cleanest homes in the world, I feel like you “get me.” You make me feel less ashamed of my anxiety and more accepting of my flaws. Thank you for giving me permission to begin again and again and again. It was just what I needed.

  2. Thanks! I did my own last-minute drop-off this morning in my last-minute clothes after we realized that our fun walk down the dirt road to the bus was… well, a few minutes late. Getting out of the car at school in the last 11 seconds to walk my daughter in, I found myself pulling the hem of my t-shirt down toward the band of my maternity pants, trying to cover the gap over my topographic-map-like 36-week belly… and another mother walking past had the grace to notice that small but telling action. “You look great!”, she said, as she headed back toward her car and an undoubtedly busy day. “Don’t worry!” How did she know?? How did she notice?? I imagine she’s been there. Thanks for sharing your own moments with all of us!

  3. I totally needed this today too!!
    You are awesome, Beth! Thank you for bearing your heart so that we will know, we’re not alone!

  4. Loved all of this, but got a good laugh from “P.S. Greg is blowing his nose that way on purpose. At you.” Because I don’t know how many times I’ve asked my husband if he has to cough so that it sounds like he’s gagging just to annoy me. I’m sure he does it on purpose. 😉

  5. “It’s our only job. To begin.” This is exactly right, though it pisses me off to no end that I never get past the beginning part. Thank you.

  6. I totally had an anxiety attack today. In public.

    Which is weird because most days I prefer a more Spock-like approach to life. It was definitely the kind that came from some obviously anxiety inducing events though.

  7. Thank you so much for these thoughts. You know, my husband often says that my own masterful slithering through the van should be part of an Olympic event. I can picture your morning drop-off because I’ve been there. I so appreciate the reminder to love the people we are and the people we haven been given with grace. God bless you and your family!

  8. Thank you for your grace to us and for sharing this. Thank you for reminding us to show grace to ourselves. May you know you are loved for who you are, body paying no attention to the fact that you feel fine and all.

  9. Super smooshy hugs to you today. I absolutely needed to hear this grace. I’ve been on the edge of tears for two days with no idea why, really. I mean, life is normal so there’s always something not going right (or my idea of right, anyway) or someone needing a little more than I have to give and driving me to the One who provides it. But that’s normal and shouldn’t make me cry because I’ve been there and know how to work it just like you know how to work that door closing magic. So, maybe I need to just let me be inexplicable right now and know that that is part of how I’m divinely made. Begin at the beginning and spread lots of grace. 🙂

  10. Letting them be who they are…this is what I believe is meant by the bible verse “Bring up a child in the way they should go”. But I was taught that it meant…make them conform to a certain list of rules and standards. It’s so much freer and life-giving than that. It’s all about helping each child to see their own uniqueness and divine spark, and helping them to embrace that and live into it. And, if that wasn’t done for us when we were younger, then we have to do it for ourselves and do it for each other.

  11. My favorite thing about your writing, Beth, is that it makes me go, “Hey. Someone else GETS it.” I read comments on your posts that say things like, “You said exactly what I was thinking, or feeling.” And that’s the truth. We all love your posts because it lets us know that we’re not alone, and there are other people out there that understand, and that we’re all pulling for each other in this really big, really chaotic world.

  12. I NEEDED THIS TODAY! because my body thinks i should cry all day because life happens and cancer happens and i lost my keys. so i guess my body has reasons, they just aren’t really sufficient reasons for lying in bed all day (which i couldn’t do anyway because of jobs and bible studies and cats and friends). and i needed this today.

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