It was the big day -- the day of the birthday party, an event my twins had been waiting for since their last birthday party. I wondered whether they'd be permanently scarred if I canceled the event because my life was a pit of chaos and I had no time to be festive. The answer was yes, the scar tissue would be massive, and I didn't want to have to spend their college fund on a therapist who specializes in disappointed twins, so I sped over to the park. By noon I was cutting the cake for my newly minted 3-year-olds, Drew and Claire.
As I distributed the slices, one of the other moms looked around for a fork. Forks! How could I have forgotten them? When she asked another mom where the forks were, I got busy arranging the juice boxes. But I couldn't duck the deeper question, the issue that lurks as the subtext for life with children: Was I a pathetic mom because I couldn't manage even the most basic details of my life -- and theirs?
Mercifully, Drew and Claire interrupted my self-recrimination by extending their sweaty little hands for cake. First I had to publicly admit my lapse in utensil provision, of course, and concede that yes, everyone present would have to eat with their fingers. But the twins and I quickly settled on a bench to give our dark slabs our full, happy concentration. For a moment, I let myself off the hook. Fork or no fork, this was good. And let's be honest: 3-year-olds aren't such big fork fans anyway.
One of the surprising things about being a parent isn't that it's such a mix of joy and frustration but that there's a lurking belief that somehow we can raise kids without chaos. We live in an increasingly demanding world, yet we haven't adjusted our expectations. Instead, the parental job description just keeps getting more and more complex. Keep reading to learn how to stop fighting the chaos and thrive in it.