‘I was late picking them up. Upon dialing her number I realized I was halfway through an intersection of a red light. I let an ‘OH SH*T’ fly.’

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“My heart still flutters when they call me Mom. Being a mom has brought joy to my life and purpose to my days. My journey into motherhood was not through the traditional development – I was 27 and single when the call of foster care intersected my life. I answered the call and in a moment, I found myself the overnight mom of 3 hurting, little souls. Nearly 4 ½ years later I am a, still single, foster and adoptive parent of 6 little people.

Parenting has changed me. Friday nights out with friends have evolved into blanket forts and pizza in. Parenting has a way of showing you, like a mirror, all the areas you need to work on. The ugly that comes out of me is shocking sometimes, the words I say unkind, the things I do immature and unhealthy. There are weeks in our home that are just rough, filled with trauma induced meltdowns, schedule changes, full moons and stressful hearings, meetings or visits. Times when our home feels disconnected as if we are all speaking different languages. Merging human lives is messy, and together we all sharpen and change one another. Over the last 4 and a half years, I have learned there are a lot of ways to parent, a lot of ways to do it right and some ways to do it wrong. What is wrong for one family, works great for another family. I love that parenting isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ kind of a deal.

Mother smiles as her oldest child kisses her on the cheek while her two younger kids hold onto wooden fence
Melissa Pennington Photography

This may be one of my favorite stories from the early months of parenting. I had been mom for officially 3 months and I was struggling. Overnight I was Mama to 3 very opinionated, hurting little people who had not been dealt a fair hand for a few rounds. I was trying to figure out this huge life change, and much like a fish out of the water, I was flopping around, gasping for air.

Two of my kiddos had been accepted to an after-school reading program at a local church. It was week three of the program and I ended up getting way behind in my day and was 15 minutes late picking them up. Frantically, I was trying to find a way to contact the program director to assure them I was on my way. Like a gift from above, I remembered I had the director’s phone number saved from a message she had left me. Upon dialing her number I realized I was halfway through an intersection of a red light – this is why we don’t use our phones while we drive. As I realized my costly mistake, I let a classy ‘oh sh*t’ fly.

Moments after the hard ‘t’ left my mouth, the scene played back to me in a slow motion, movie reel kind of way. The phone was up to my ear and the well-known ‘beep’ of the voicemail had sounded, just as I realized I was running a red light. Oh, I had left a message all right.

Three young siblings hold hands while standing outside whose mother has sworn in front of them
Melissa Pennington Photography

Slowly and silently I lowered my phone, praying she wouldn’t know it was me. No way would she have my number saved and even if she did, surely she wouldn’t be able to pick me out of a crowd of parents. I screeched into the parking lot, bursting through the door as I apologized for my tardiness. There stood the director, all she said was, ‘I got your message.’ WHAT DO YOU EVEN SAY TO THAT? I smiled, gathered my crew and said, ‘thank you, see you next week!’

Living is messy, parenting is all sorts of a damp, sticky messy. We are all just doing our best. We make mistakes, lose our temper and we are a bunch of hypocrites who teach irony to our children. The ratio of my home, 6 kids to 1 adult, has taught me humility. I apologize a lot to my kiddos, I ask for help and I own my mistakes.

As I folded laundry, packed lunches and washed dishes I reflected on all of the mistakes I had made in this day, so many. Moments echoed through my mind, hearing the words I spoke. The guilt and shame showed up reminding me of all my errors. I soaked it all in for a moment, I absorbed it until I willingly carried around the burden of shame.

Then in a moment, a quiet whisper of Elsa’s famous words trickled through my mind, ‘let it go.’ So, I did. I want my crew to grow up and be kind to the world around them. Most of all I want them to be kind to themselves. They watch me, more so than I ever realize.

These last 4.5 years of parenthood has taught me to take things less seriously, to laugh more and make mistakes. As I fail and succeed daily we talk about it and I demonstrate as often I as I can what it looks like to be kind. The greatest gift I can give my children is grace. So tomorrow is a new day, and it is washed clean with grace.”

Mother holds and kisses youngest daughter on the cheek who she has sworn in front of
Melissa Pennington Photography

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Julianna Klepfer, a 30 something, single, foster/adoptive mama. She lives with her crew of seven, ages 11, 9, 7, 4, 3, 18 months and 6 months, their two dogs and 6 chickens in the hills of Iowa. You can follow along with her ever changing family at My Joyful Broken Heart.

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