I was never good at letting go of the small things. I would fret if my son missed a nap, certain his sleep routine was irreversibly wrecked. If I suspected he hadn't eaten enough for dinner I'd lie awake worrying he wasn't gaining adequate weight. A tantrum in the middle of a store was as humiliating as realizing I'd been walking around with my skirt tucked into my knickers.
I wanted to be in control and believed that if I wasn't, then I wasn't being a good parent. I didn't know at the time that I simply couldn't be in control of everything, and that that was okay.
Then, some time after my second son was born, I slowly began to let go. There wasn't time to fret over trivial issues, and I didn't have the energy or patience - instead I was focused on more basic goals like making it through the day alive.
So, if crayon marks appeared on the wall, if bedtime was pushed later or naps skipped, if lunch was a muffin and half a banana, I learned to say oh well, okay, not the end of the world.
Instead of sweating over the fact that my house wasn't spotless, I ditched the housework and began spending more time reading and playing with the kids. And, amazingly, the house did not collapse around me! It was okay.
Where once I would have snarled at someone giving me unwanted parenting advice, I found myself instead nodding and politely saying, oh right okay sure (and then discarding it).
I don't know about you, but I've found that with time I've become less affected by these insignificant things. Take yesterday, for instance: I was on the phone with my school. Oliver was in one arm chirping down the receiver like a bird, Matthew was glued to my leg, tugging and interrogating me over a missing toy car, and I was trying to scribble down notes from the conversation - barely audible over the noise - on a notepad on the fridge.
A few years ago I would have been in a flap. I probably would have locked myself in the bathroom with the phone to continue the conversation. But yesterday I apologized to the secretary about the noise and carried on the conversation. I realized afterward that this scenario, which must seem chaotic to others, is just ordinary for me now.
I've learned it's good to let go of the small stuff because you save energy for better things. And besides, there'll be plenty of opportunity for stress as the kids grow up. But let's not think about that right now...