My Litany of Shortcomings and Why It Can Suck It

“Hey, Mom?” asked the 7 year old.

“Yes, Cai?” asked I.

“Remember when you said all the swear words today?” 

“No, Cai,” said I.

“ALL the swear words in the world, Mom?”

“No, Cai,” said I.

“And the very BADDEST swear word, Mom?” 

“No, Cai,” said I.

“The one you said we should never, ever, ever tell Grandma we know?

“No, Cai,” said I.

“The one that starts with f and ends with uck? And sound like ffff – uck, ffff – uck? Can you put those sounds together, Mom?”

“Still don’t remember, Cai,” said I, although he was starting to jog my memory.

“But you DID, Mom. Remember? When the car wouldn’t start? And we were late to the doctor? And it just did CLICK CLICK CLICK? And you said crap and shit and you’ve got to be fucking kidding me? And then stop laughing, and SERIOUSLY; NOT RIGHT NOW, YOU GUYS, and SHhhhh… I have to call your father, and then you used your Not Nice voice to Daddy that you always say isn’t yelling but we say is yelling? Remember that, Mom?”

“OK. Yep. I remember now. Thanks, Cai,” said I.

“You’re welcome, Mom. And Mom?”


“That really was hilarious.”


Today was… I don’t know. Fine. It was fine. 

We did make it to the doctor. Eventually. Forty-five minutes late, using the car my parents brought to rescue me. If you’ve ever wondered who the people are who make your doctor late all the time, THEY’RE ME. All those people are secretly ME. I’ve booked all the appointments ahead of you, and I’m always late, and I’m so sorry. But we couldn’t reschedule, even though we did call and offer, because it was my kid’s post-operative appointment and the doctor said it had to be done today, dead car battery or no. 

We came home to find that the dog had helped himself in our absence to a few tampon treats from the garbage and scattered their slobbery remains throughout the downstairs. Here’s my advice for new parents: GET A DOG, and I swear to you your children will no longer seem so gross, because no matter where my kids have peed and pooped – which, FYI, includes but is not limited to the toy box, behind the beds, in the air vents, on the garage walls, and under the front porch – they have never, to my knowledge, chewed on a used tampon. Kids for the win!

And there were at least two whiney kids I wanted to drop-kick over the back fence by the time we finished dinner.

So, you know. It was a day.

It’s easy to go through the litany of all the things I do wrong during the day. There are just SO MANY to recite. I was unkind. I was yelly. I was impatient. I was ungrateful. I said ALL the bad words in the world in front of my kids. I’m too heavy. I’m prone to panicking. I rarely floss. I’m selfish. I can’t get the knack of shaving my armpits without getting razor burn in the left pit. I go to bed too late. I don’t serve veggies with dinner. And I haven’t washed my bathroom floor with more than a towel and the water dripping off my showered body in more than a year. A YEAR.

I was in full throttle tonight. The Unabridged Litany of the Ways I fff – uck Up Life. 

Which is when I saw the message from Erin in my in-box. Erin who rescued my children and me on Tuesday. Erin, to whom I’d written:

I meant to find you and thank you in person for being so kind and gracious to me on Tuesday morning when I just blew it at kid drop-off. Rather than, you know, write about you in public and never say actual words to your face. But Tuesday was a mess and Abby had surgery Wednesday and I’ve been in practical stasis or go-go-going since then. So, in lieu of being socially appropriate, I just wanted to drop you a note and say thank you. Really. I was the parent who makes your job hard, and you were Jesus to me. I’m grateful.

Erin’s message back said:

Beth, You are welcome – although we all run late in life and feel overwhelmed by it I’m glad I could spin your morning in a new direction. Please know though that you are also the parent who makes my little summer job something I love to do each year. This is why – your kids are amazing! I got to be in Cai and Cael’s group this year and they both showed so much love and care for others. Cai continually reached out to a little boy at camp with some needs and offered to play with him and sought him out during big group times when we were together. Cael spent time with each child in our group and was always eager to include. I loved hearing Aden’s story of how she overcame her fear on the high ropes course and how she worked through it to accomplish it. Ian was my saving grace to a younger child who needed comforting. So – being late one morning is really no big deal – but having empathetic and compassionate children IS a big deal – and you have them and they were Jesus to me – giving me just enough encouragement to keep at this crazy week for the next year. I’m grateful.

And that’s when I realized I’m not so horrible after all. I mean, yes; the Litany of Shortcomings is true. I’m all those things. But only technically, because the Litany isn’t the whole truth or the full measure of me. And when the Litany is used, not to apologize or show ourselves mercy, but to wallow in shame, well, that technical truth becomes the lie we use to convince ourselves we’re without value and not enough. And that will never do. 

Instead, tonight, now that my kids are in bed and I’m of more sound mind, I will use the Litany to craft the apologies I owe, to practice forgiveness on myself, to show kindness, and to remember it is but a fraction of the whole person I’m becoming. I will remember that both in spite of and because of who I am, my children are learning to face down fear, to show compassion, to be inclusive, and to Love. And I will choose to believe, one more time, that Love really does overcome. Even the Litany. Even in me. 


Here’s what I’d love to know, as a way to practice love together.
What did you do WELL today?

And also, what can you tell me about armpit razor burn? Because SHEESH.


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55 responses to “My Litany of Shortcomings and Why It Can Suck It”

  1. Use witch hazel, dab it in your arm pit with a cotton ball and it really should help with the razor burn.

    Also, I cuss A LOT and I’m really working on that (sorta) so when I slip up and say a bad word and my son is in ear shot who is mind you 11 yrs old now will say “mom, bad word…time out” a quick back story any time Aadan would get in trouble he would go into time out for however old he was at the time; for example he throws a fit he’s 5 yrs old he’s in time out for 5 minutes. It really worked for him. So every time he tells me “time out mom” I’m like(THANK YOU INVISIBLE MAN IN THE SKY, I GET A 34 MINUTE NAP).

    That was all, I just wanted to say I love the way you write, it reads like you’re talking not writing which is a talent my dear and you’re funny as fuck..I mean hell..I mean…ahhh shit never mind, you rock! 😉

  2. What I did right: I showed up only 5 minutes late to my son’s IEP meeting this morning before school! Whoo Hoo! – that is a win. Except it is next Monday. Today is Tuesday. I said to my son that we really needed the practice.

    It is so hard some days to find the good. In ourselves, in our kids, in our homes, husbands and the world (and the kitchen). Some days just suck. And we are so quick to beat ourselves up for ALL OF IT.

    I don’t shave my pits in the winter unless I am going to wear something sleeveless and since I don’t exercise (one more for the litany) you do the math. Can’t help with that one.

    Reading what you wrote was good. Thanks.

  3. loved this post! loathing and shame diminish us so quickly and love and grace build us up so quickly. Thank God for all the graceful people in our lives!

  4. For the armpit razor burn:
    1) Don’t bother shaving your pits unless you are wearing something sleeveless.
    2) Try dabbing the skin with a cottonball soaked in Hibiclens or rubbing alcohol before and after shaving and put antibacterial ointment such as Bacitracin on the shaved area immediately after shaving.

    And I, too, have children who have peed in the heating vent. Sheesh.

  5. It is indeed nice to hear that you aren’t alone… I have those days where I have to pull myself up by the boot straps and out of the muck that my brain has me wallowing in.

    Right now, with a moody almost 4 year old, where peace is always on a knifes edge, every day feels like a constant reminder that I’m not a good enough mum… Small victory today is that I didn’t give into a tantrum, and ended up calming the “beast” with music and she took a nap…woke up sheer and bright. Next challenge, getting her in the bath…wish me luck…hahaha

  6. I welcomed my husband’s parents (whom I love) one day early because hey, who can tell what day people will arrive anyway (and it was my fault for mixing up the days). We cleaned everything in 20 minutes flat while they were on their way over from the hotel, then got dinner and had a nice visit. But early. And handled it anyway. 🙂

  7. At first, I really wanted to say “Nothing! I did NOTHING well today.” But that’s not true. So here goes… *deep breath*
    ~ I fed my 1 yr old all three meals, and only yelled once while doing so
    ~ I bit my tongue and did NOT defend myself when I could have. But I knew it would just escalate into yet more family issues today with my parents, so I choked back All The Words and then went and cried instead of saying them.
    ~ I smiled at my teens when they got home from school.
    ~ I told my husband how glad I was that God put him in my life, and I MEANT IT.
    ~ I expressed gratitude to several people when it would have been easy to just keep grumbling about something.
    ~ And now I’m taking some time for ME, so that (hopefully) tomorrow will start out a little easier, and maybe the pounding headache will go away, and maybe I can start remembering the positives a little easier.

  8. I garnered some momrades to pray for me instead of continuing to wallow in a wave of resentment that was threatening to reach tsunami-size. This is significant because 99.376% of the time I throw open the doors and let the tsunami in to wreak its awful havoc, so NOT DOING THAT is a win. 🙂

    And as for the armpits, I’ve battled my share of razor burn without any completely fail-proof cures….but rubbing in some coconut oil AFTER I shave each day has seemed to consistently improve my skin’s resilience to it. Maybe worth a try? 😉

    Loving you and celebrating you and being so dang grateful for your open heart.

  9. Beth, I think I love you. No, no…I’m sure of it: I LOVE YOU! Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts with the world because they are so helpful, comforting, hysterically funny, inspiring, real and hopeful that I can’t thank you enough for what you’ve done for me almost daily. Your blog is my fav and I’ve shared it with many people in the hopes that they’ll get as much out of it as I have. For sure, I love you the best!

  10. “And there were at least two whiney kids I wanted to drop-kick over the back fence by the time we finished dinner.” This is why I love you. This is how I feel most days. I’m just still trying to get to the end part. You know, the part where you come to some kind of terms and realize everything might actually be ok? I haven’t been a new mama in 2 years. And a year before that, and 2 years before that, and 2 years before that. But I’m just not there yet. But you give me hope.

  11. I played Legos well with my 2 youngest daughters today. My 6- and 8-year-old girls had some really awesome imaginative play today, building things these silly “girl” Lego sets never intended. I don’t mind that one built a death ray, and that the other had a torture device of sorts…well not much! I definitely love that they thought outside the box, and I love that I got to be a part of that! My Litany is pretty long, but I am WIN at being a good mom today!

    P.S. Erin’s note was just awesome, but she doesn’t inspire me nearly as much as you do, Beth. The fact that you find good in so much, even when so much seems bad, that’s awe-inspiring! Thank you for helping me see that while clean floors would rock, happy kids rock more!

  12. I took my kids to the beach, and brought all of them back home. I didn’t lose even one of them! And was only tempted to leave them at the ranger shack a teeny, *tiny* little bit!

    Oh, and that razor thing? You need to wax instead of shave. Not regularly mind you. Just once should do, or twice if you are a slow learner. After that kinda pain, the razor burn is small potatoes.

  13. I am a lurker, a grandmother, and love your posts! But I can one-up you on the dog chews. Gross alert! Let’s just say that what goes in must come out – ever pull on a string out of the dog’s heiny? And then there was the cat with the Christmas tree tinsel.. Let’s just say it was festive. All you mamas are doing a wonderful job with your busy, overwhelming, weird life challenges. I admire you all!

  14. I managed to keep my cool with my two overwhelming toddlers, and did lots of fun stuff with them, and made dinner. All of these were surprising.

    • Can’t give you any advice about the armpits, though. I refuse to shave anything except the hairy patch on my chin.

  15. This is so fabulous and precious – after it was hilarious and gross. Clearly you’re giving your kids a rounded education and they’re picking up on all the good stuff.

    So I decided today that the very moment I brought one kid home from surgery – drugged but not drugged enough so crying and coughing – was the perfect moment to teach the older one about condoms b/c we had a banana that needed to be put in the compost. We used it for educational purposed first.

    I dunno – parenting for the win??

  16. As with most things, I learned to shave my pits from Real Simple. The key? The hair grows in multiple directions. You need to shave up, down and sideways. With a good razor. Also, I haven’t mopped any of my floors, not even with a wet towel, since…I can’t remember. Glad I’m not the only one.

  17. This so made me cry, as I was litany-ing the heck out of myself last night. How about litanies of grace? We never get credit for the things we WISH we said but didn’t…or what we ALMOST did but refrained. Or the numerous awesomesauce things we do that we ignore / discount / don’t see.

    I am trying to be patient with whining, with clinginess, with Big Feelings that result in yelling and throwing and hitting (from the 3-year-old, not me…okay, sometimes the yelling). I was able to be fully present with my little guy on our special mommy-dude morning yesterday, appreciating the way he mows down on PB&J, his enthusiasm for all things that spin, and his blue, blue eyes and perfect cheeks.

    I think someone really smart (*cough* Beth Woolsey) said that we do the best we can, and then there’s Grace.

  18. Awesome reminder, thanks! And you know, I swear at this point that, not only is it literally impossible to be a perfect parent, but also it’s not the point. I think that everyone has a journey that is their life, including your kids, and that if their (and your) whole journey is focused on avoiding scew-ups, then it’s going to be a pretty boring and unfulfilling journey.

    Also, come on Beth. You can’t be everywhere. I will take on the job as local Deputy of Doctor-Appointment-Late-Making. I’m already doing it, might as well make it official. Or vet appointment, bank appointment, any appointment really, I’m versatile that way. Sorry everybody.

  19. I am never, never, ever good enough. This is how I feel every day. But yesterday? Big Time WIN. I QUIT MY JOB!!!! I am so tired of being too tired to be a decent wife and mother. My husband is more Jesus to me than I can ever be to him. I have to hang around my 9-5 for about a month, but then……I will only have 1 full-time job. Chances are, I will still suck at it.

    Good news and bad news about the armpit thing. When you get older and/or your thyroid takes a vacay, you will grow less hair all over. I only have to shave my pits about every 4 months or so. My legs – maybe once a month.

  20. I brushed my daughter’s teeth in the shower, for the win baby! I have not been so good at this, she cries and then I cave but this morning we brushed each other’s teeth and laughed while we did it.
    Now about those armpits, try baby oil in the shower with your razor next time and maybe shaving in a different direction. If that doesn’t work just put a giant band-aide on it and offer to show people your flesh eating virus. No one will care about razor burn after that. 🙂

  21. Erin’s letter to you made me cry. It reminded me of what is REALLY important. I hope to be as fortunate as you in raising kids with admirable behaviors.
    I have read my toddlers several books today AND got them to eat fruit in a smoothie. I will let myself feel good about those small victories.