When my first son was 15 months old, he poured a cup of hot coffee on himself and spent a night in the hospital. And it was my fault.
Really, I'm not just being dramatic. I had gotten myself a nice, steaming hot cup of black coffee, set it in a low, reachable area, and left the room.
After the panic, crying, and my first ever trip to the ER, I spent the night with him alone in the hospital. I felt terrible. I was overcome with guilt. I cried. So. Much. Changing his dressings and watching his pain made me relive that guilt all over again. I was grateful to still be nursing him because I was also the only one that could provide him the comfort he needed.
Thankfully, he only suffered 2nd degree burns and was released from the hospital after one night of observation with instructions for follow up care. It was a best case scenario. He is completely healed and has no scarring. He is four now and doesn't even remember it. Yet sometimes that guilt creeps back in when I think the burn incident scarred him in other, deeper ways.
I was so ashamed to let anyone know what happened. I was afraid of the judgement. I was afraid people would see my carelessness. I was afraid they wouldn't offer me grace. I didn't want to be that vulnerable.
Only a small group of people knew. But they didn't make me feel terrible. They actually showed me mercy. My parents came to hug me at the hospital. My best friend brought me a care package to stay in the hospital overnight. My father-in-law later said to me, "Don't worry. We still think you are great parents." They could see my agony. They were letting me know it was ok. I was not the only parent to make a mistake.
I told my brother a few days after the incident that I didn't think I would ever forgive myself. But I have. We have to. As parents, as people, it is guaranteed that we will make mistakes. It's a part of life, right? It is necessary to also forgive ourselves and allow ourselves grace and compassion.
And I think it's important to share. We talk a lot about how to be a great parent- what to do, what not to do, etc. Almost too much. Ad nauseam. But we don't talk what to do when you're not. When you've made a mistake. When you've made a choice you regret. Well, it's pretty simple. You go on. You talk about it if you need to. You seek out support. You find out you're not alone and you feel better. You allow yourself to be forgiven.
You're not the only one.
I've heard friends recently worry over their choices and decisions- their well thought out, thoroughly researched, heavily scrutinized decisions- so afraid to make a bad choice or live with regret. I get it. I do it. But I want to tell them- it's ok! You're enough. The amazing care you are giving that little human is enough, even when you think it's not. The fact that you care so much about doing the right thing is enough. At some point, you just have to let go and let life happen. You can't plan for everything. You can't foresee when bad things will happen. But you have to come to peace with bad decisions and mess ups. Don't fear making the mistakes. Don't let the mom-guilt overtake you. And when you need to, forgive yourself. By your example, you are teaching your children to forgive themselves, too.
We're human. We're just doing our best. Sometimes less. And that's ok.
That's a real truth of parenting- even, dare I say, good parenting.
Show up between the mistakes, forgive yourself, and get up to try again tomorrow.