There’s a handful of phrases you will hear frequently at our house. “I love you,” of course, is one of them. “Lexi, off,” is another, thanks to our rather energetic dog. “I got it,” is another, compliments of the stage of development our five-year-old is in, which has her deeply committed to doing everything herself.

That’s okay,” is a phrase that has grown in prominence in our family, though, in the past few years, and it’s a curious one.

We’re an interesting family….a mix of both classic type-A organization, planning, and structure, with a healthy mix of laid-back, fun-loving, flexibility mixed in. Maybe that’s what fourteen years of marriage and a couple of kids do? I don’t know. What I do know, though, is that our worldview, our family approach and individual perspectives have evolved significantly over the years, to the point that “that’s okay,” is part of our vernacular. To be honest, those two little words are pretty meaningful to me.

Having an independent preschooler in the house translates into a lot of messes. A LOT. And spills. Broken things. Did I mention messes?

Bless them. Kids can’t help it. It happens. And without hesitation, the minute the cup of milk gets accidentally knocked off of the table and splashes it’s entire contents on the recently mopped wood floor and the stainless steel appliances drip their discontent, no matter who was responsible, Ava will pipe up, “that’s okay, mom!”

Without skipping a beat, my response is the same, regardless of the circumstances: “you’re right. It is okay.”

And it is. Floors can re-mopped. Appliances can be wiped down. So can the inevitable dog tracks that will follow, as our dog rushes to the “rescue.”  

Wounded little hearts and tender feelings, however, aren’t so simple to tend to. Whether it’s memes that remind us of how our children can be wounded by our words or parenting articles that remind us of the psychological impact that our actions and words can have, the consequences of our choices as parents are forefront in many of our minds. And for good reason. We love our children and want to raise them as best as we can, and we all bring to the table of parenthood our own experiences from childhood, whether positive or negative. But life happens each day, and I admit, even I don’t bring my A-game every moment.

I apologize more than I ever knew was possible as a parent. Maybe I apologize too much? That’s probably for another blog post. What I do know is that I’m not afraid to tell my girls that I’m sorry when I’m impatient or frustrated. I’m not ashamed to admit to them when I’m in the wrong. And I’m certainly not embarrassed to admit why those words, “that’s okay” mean so much to me as a parent.

Even our girls know that as time has gone by in my life as a mother, I’ve been shaped, molded, changed…and far more for the better. But I can remember the inner turmoil that I felt as a new mother, when I began to experience the seemingly endless tasks of cleaning up, dealing with accidents and messes, living on children’s timetables and not my own. Although I tried my best back then to communicate that it was all okay, that accidents happen, that we could take our time at things, I know that there were lots of times that it was said through clenched teeth. I spit the words out to be kind to Olivia, but I didn’t necessarily feel them in my heart. Being as observant as she is, I’m sure she noticed that, unfortunately.

And then, along came Ava. As some know, Ava faced a lot of health issues and developments delays initially. I wore out a nearly new washer with the amount of laundry that came from a refluxy baby who couldn’t keep anything down some days.

As she worked to gain both large and fine motor skills, messes were known to pile up as I focused on her, and messes were happily made as we played and worked alongside her. Minor surgeries were underwent even at a young age. In every one of those instances, I can remember people telling me they were sorry—sorry that she was facing difficulties and I couldn’t fix it—they couldn’t fix it—sorry that life was piling up around us.

And you know what I said in each of these instances and more? “That’s okay.

I can remember one of the first times I spoke those two words and felt them deep in my soul. Ava was just a few months old, and we were in between her two surgeries. A lot was unknown. I was exhausted. And my mom felt horrible. Terrible. Both for what we were going through, and that she couldn’t fix it for me. As she poured out her guilt and grief over the phone, the words fell out of my mouth. “It’s okay. It really is okay. We have her, and she’s going to be okay.”

Those words, “it’s okay,” over time, evolved into the words “that’s okay,” as we progressed from facing issues with Ava, to Ava creating issues. LOL. Just a little parent-of-a-preschooler humor for you. They are just so great at living life, and living life large, aren’t they?!

Who would have thought, years ago, that the Melissa that likes things to be clean, neat, well-planned out, predictable, orderly, (that list could go on and on…) would one day speak the words “that’s okay,” as often as I do, and find such peace and joy in how my children embrace them, also. Not just in word, but truly in spirit.

How about you? Do your words and actions reflect that it’s your children, your spouse, your loved ones who are valued over things? Does your soul reflect that in the end, things will be okay? That minor frustrations are temporary?

If you don’t yet, that’s okay….maybe today’s the day you can start working on it.