The Picture of Parenting



I was lifting her up so that she could put the star on our Christmas tree. For some reason, it was that moment that made me feel like, “Okay, I’m a mom now.”

There are lots of moments like that, but that one really stood out. It was a Norman Rockwell painting come to life. I live for those moments — especially at this time of year. They’re embedded in my psyche as part of the mommy dream.

I think that’s why I also struggle so much with the aspects of parenting that are sometimes cropped from those classic paintings — the dirty dishes, the toys strewn from room to room, the parents working 12+ hours a day to try to make ends meet. I try to see those things as beautiful corners of my parenting painting, too, but it’s a struggle sometimes.

And then, of course, I have to make room for my child’s dreams and ideas of what her life should be. Then the painting morphs into some kind of strange pink collage, with Anna and Elsa dancing, and pumpkin art everywhere.

My little 3-year-old artist is starting to make her own mark. I help deck out her room with princess bedding and a Frozen poster. She has glittery pink-and-purple ornaments hanging from the cords on the ceiling fan. It is the picture-perfect little girl’s room.

Then she insists on putting up leftover Halloween decorations, taking out every toy she’s ever owned, coloring her bedsheets with a purple Sharpie, and putting farm stickers on the wall.

“This is my artwork,” she says sternly, holding a chubby, little pointer finger in the air. “Don’t move it.”

She insisted on helping decorate the Christmas tree this year, by hanging all the Christmas bulbs together, in one long bulb-chain, from the bottom of the tree to the floor.

The picturesque dollhouse by the tree, the one I’m remodeling in time for Christmas, looks like the aftermath of a frat-party. The dad’s body is half-hanging out the window, mom’s asleep in the front yard. A yellow slide from a lost Lego set is in the kitchen, and the dog-train from Tickety Tock has taken place of the stairs.

Unfinished art projects decorate my coffee table, and the dining room table is covered in cupcake stickers.

My husband is curled up on the couch with his phone, or building marble tracks for my daughter, carrying suitcases in from the car. I’m sitting in my pajamas, that I’ve been wearing all day, raiding a box of cookies, sipping an iced coffee, looking at my phone, and updating my planner for the week.

Yep. This is my life. It’s not picture-perfect, but I’m kind of in love with it.

*Elsa painting by Allanah Claire


  1. I had this idea while I was reading your post and figured I’d share it. Every family/child is different so this might not work for you, but perhaps you could try creating special displays for your daughter’s artwork. You could put them in more than one room (kitchen, living room, her bedroom). Maybe that would help her not to take so much artistic liberty with the rest of your home if she had her own special place for her creations. Just a thought 🙂


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