Adoption, Favorites, Parenting

I Felt Failure


I could feel the tears stinging the edges of my eyelids.

My husband had just made a simple observation, that the hairbands were all over the kitchen floor, and I froze.  I looked at him and whispered, “I can’t take any more criticism right now.”  He looked confused.  He’d made an observation.  From where was this coming?

I inhaled.  Exhaled.  I tried to show him.

A few days ago, I spent the morning making gluten free cupcakes because my son had a birthday party to attend and I didn’t want him to miss out.  For the last couple of years, I spend each day figuring out what food people are going to offer him and making or buying alternatives.  I really don’t mind.  It’s become normal.

I frosted the cupcake, poking little toothpicks around the top so the icing wouldn’t smash against the lid of the little plastic container.

The next morning, all three kids and I piled into the van and we headed to the drop-off line at school.  As we pulled up to the circle, I noticed that all the children getting out of the vans in front of us were wearing jammies.

Pajama Day.

How could I forget?  In all our new child, new schedules, learning to juggle it all, I’d let a flyer slip through my fingers.  One that said Pajama Day, the day of flannel and coziness and something fun to break up the routine of schoolwork.

I braced myself.  I knew what was coming.  My son’s eyes filled with tears.  They boiled over, splashing down his cheeks.  He was a cauldron of wet, angry emotion.  “IT’S JAMMIE DAY!  HOW COULD YOU FORGET JAMMIE DAY?!?  THERE ISN’T GOING TO BE ANOTHER ONE!!!”

His panic rose.  He was grieving jammies but he was grieving the loss of being firstborn.  His pain from the changes in our family bubbled over and blasted full force at jammies and at me.  Loss.  Loss of jammies and loss of his place in the family and it was all too much for him.

He screamed at me, and I don’t just let my kids scream at me but I felt all of his struggle in that moment and ached for him.  The teacher walked toward the van door, our dumb manual door that sticks.  As she yanked it open, he dried his tears, and I handed him his gluten free cupcake with trembling hands.

I’d worked so hard.  I’d thought of everything.  But I’d missed something.  Something big to him.

And even though I know deep down that I’m a good mom, in that moment, I felt failure.  I felt not enough.

And there are a hundred little moments like that throughout a day.  Missed deadlines, forgotten memos.  Criticism from kids, criticism from myself, criticism from life.

So when my husband mentioned the hairbands, it wasn’t about hairbands.  It was never about hairbands.  And it wasn’t even about him.

It was a mountain of little details gone awry.  It was dinners that no one likes and dishes and laundry never finished and “Mom!!!” shouted hundreds of time, in a way that sounds like a swear word.

I looked up at him, shoulders tight under my ears, fists pressing onto the countertop, and the fiery knot in my throat threatened to burn right through my vocal cords.  His eyes looked back at mine.  Kind.  Loving.  And in that moment I knew that he saw me.

He saw.  He saw it all.

We didn’t have to talk anymore.  Which was good, because my throat wouldn’t let me.

We’d arrived at understanding, the hairbands still scattered all over the floor.

It’s not easy, this parenting thing, this partnering thing.  I’m grateful for these moments of being seen, being heard.  After the kids finally give up and sigh into their pillows, these late nights of eyes meeting and hearts softening remind me that I am loved and I am loving.

Inhale.  Exhale.  Life’s about the journey, and the journey is beautiful.

If you’ve had a moment, or several moments, of feeling failed, of feeling not enough, I just want you to hear today that you’re doing a great job.  I know I’m not there, but I see you, and you’re beautiful.  We are together on this team, and I am rooting for us.


image from thecafesucrefarine

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  • Awesomemom

    I fell this way all the time. There are so many fun things I want to teach my kids but I turn around and the day is gone. So much of our afternoon is swallowed up in homework because I have two older kids that would rather be done with school than doing homework. My eldest had a stroke as a baby and needs regular stretches to help keep his tight heels more limber. He takes so long to get ready in the morning that more often than not the time I have set aside to do it is gone. I would love to have bible study in the morning with the kids but again that never happens. I wish there was a magic wand that I could wave so that there was time to accommodate things that I need/want to get done every day and still accommodate the needs of my kids.

    • Melanie Dale

      Groannnn, yes. I feel this with you! This constant tension of what we want to happen and what actually happens. You ARE an Awesome Mom. You ARE.

  • Kerry

    Thank you, I really needed to read this today. I read and love all your posts but it felt like you were really talking to me today. Thank you so much.

    • Melanie Dale

      Thanks, Kerry. Thanks for reading my posts, for your empathy. You are beautiful. You are beautiful.

  • Ashlee

    Tears in my eyes reading this. So good, so honest, so beautiful. Thanks for sharing, M.

    • Melanie Dale

      Thanks, Ashlee. Humbled and grateful to be able to share a bit of my struggle and receive understanding and empathy in return.

  • Lynne

    It made me cry too. Especially the line “I know I’m not there, but I see you, and you’re beautiful” I lost my Mum to cancer a year ago and it’s been a tough year dealing with that and an energetic and argumentative three-year-old. It felt as if those words could have come straight from my Mum. Thank you for such a heartfelt post.

    • Melanie Dale

      Oh, thank you, Lynne, and I’m so sorry about your mother. No words. Just mentally hugging you.

  • Summer

    So true….Great post!

    • Melanie Dale

      Thanks, Summer!

  • K.B

    Thank you…for this post that reached across a computer screen and wrapped me in the hug I’ve been needing for weeks. For those last few sentences that mean so much, and we all hear so little, that just reading them from a stranger makes the day a little easier. I’m floating the deep back hole of “i’m a failure” for a few weeks now, tugged in every direction – giving and doing and still managing to not be enough. It is nice to not feel like I’m the only one who has those moments.

    • Melanie Dale

      You are not alone!!! Big. Hug. Big, big hug, K.B.

  • rds

    oh, melanie. You have me in tears, knowing how crappy it feels to be the one who’s feeling like a failure, so sad that you feel it too. This past week I’ve felt like a jerk half the time because I’ve knee-jerk-reacted to my kids rather than seeing them, yelled for compliance rather than taking a moment to understand. Don’t even get me started on the mess in this house or the pile of to-do lists that I can’t keep up with. Thank God we only have preschool 2 days a week – it’s a lot less to keep track of (I dread kindergarten, to be honest). I’m still recovering from the self-inflicted strain of trying to make the holidays special. When my family and friends tell me they think I’m doing a great job at this parenting endeavor, I don’t believe them; how could they have any idea what I am actually failing at? They aren’t here to see it.
    Thanks for putting to words what i can’t articulate.

    • Melanie Dale

      Sigh. So difficult. You are a good mom. You are doing a good work. A great work. And so am I. :) The mess, the crazy, the failing and falling…all beautiful. Hugging you through my computer screen, rds.

  • MelissaandBuddy Rose Norckauer

    love you Mel! ya’ll are doing great, even if you dont always see it. you are raising sweet, understanding, caring, loving kiddos. I know you feel overwhelmed, but you kids feel your love, and A knows how hard you work! you are an inspiration to me! :)

    • Melanie Dale

      Thanks, friend. Right back at you! Whew. We are good moms. We are good moms…

  • Darlene Fountain

    and I am cheering you on… I’m the queen of crazy and I stumble each day with something. . but it gives me the opportunity to talk ALOT about grace, forgiveness and love. . and if your 3 like my 3 get those 3… we’ve all done good. :)

    • Melanie Dale

      Grace, forgiveness, and love – YES!!! :)

  • Marcia Ball

    Melanie, you are a good mother, I watched you at a recent wedding and your husband is a good father. We have all forgotten “Jammie Day or the like but you remembered the cupcake, our savior always had the cupcake too, he had /has what we need,not what we deserve, I don’t know how “Jammie day” worked out but why not let your son have his own Jammie day,, with his friends. Have fun games, eat breakfast for dinner,have a wonderful Jammie story time, and then party’s over. Sleep tight, don’t let the bed bugs bite.
    Ps This is a no sibling party!


  • Carrie Snider

    <3 I love this. Need to read it every day.





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