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The Biggest Mistake of All

Photograph by Getty Images

Carrying on in the spirit of my “Mistake of the Week,” column, I was chomping at the bit to share more crazy anecdotes of maternal mayhem, particularly this next one because it comes with an unexpected twist.

My very first “Mistake of the Week” guest is the always funny Emmy-winning comedy writer ("Regular Show") Matt Price. Clearly not a woman! The interview locked and loaded, I flipped on my computer and pulled up the blank page. Then I started my usual stalling technique of scrolling through my newsfeed first, the way other people stretch their hamstrings before a run, and got sideswiped by an intensely moving final piece by Charlotte Kitley.

If you aren’t familiar with Kitley’s writing, by “final,” I don’t mean she moved on to a three-book deal. The piece is “final,” because it is the last writing she would complete before her death. A 36-year-old with two young children who lived in the UK, Kitley had been blogging for the Huffington Post for over a year about her life with terminal cancer.

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Everyday sentences take on prophetic weight when you know the person writing them is staring down the barrel of a gun, so to speak, so it was no surprise that Kitley’s words hit me hard. Reminders to “embrace your loved one,” and “please, please, enjoy life. Take it by both hands, grab it, shake it and believe in every second of it,” followed by the real stinger, “Adore your children. You have literally no idea how blessed you are to shout at them in the morning to hurry up and clean their teeth,” forced me to think a little more deeply about the “mistakes” I tend to dwell on and wonder if I haven’t been missing the boat.

The irreparable mistakes would seem to be in not letting go of all the little mistakes and minor disappointments in ourselves and others.

Is it possible that in looking at mothering through the lens of some kind of parenting perfection and focusing on picayune daily mistakes, (frankly the cost of doing business when your business is being a parent), I am making far bigger mistakes of forgetting to hug my husband and my children more? Of not dancing and laughing and eating enough with friends as Kitley stresses and not finding more times throughout the day to simply enjoy life?

If I had to distill Kitley’s devastatingly unfettered advice down to a few words, one intention, without which all the most mistake-free parenting will fail horribly, as un-ironic as it sounds, the words would be: LOVE MORE.

If I am to understand the thoughts of this woman, who knew she was wrapping things up as a wife and mother, the irreparable mistakes would be in not letting go of all the little mistakes and minor disappointments in ourselves and others and whatever else — including, as she makes a point of noting, being overtaken by work that I know from experience can keep you so distracted and preoccupied, you can’t even see those closest to you, let alone embrace and enjoy them.

At least I’m sure I won’t ever look back and think I didn't laugh enough with friends, as I was reminded talking to relatively new dad, Matt Price. His reveal on the ongoing trials of getting his daughter to sleep comfortably in a bed instead of the family car had me shooting water out of my nose. For this week, though, in honor of Ms. Kitley and all the other parents who were robbed of all the goofy, silly, wonderful, awful, heartbreaking, very-big-learning-curve-mistakes they didn't get to make, let’s just say the only mistake any of us have to worry about is not being balls out bold with our love.

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Think of this as what they call the “deep tease” in the television world, because don’t you worry, Matt Price is coming and he’s bringing the raw truth about sitting in his car, waving to the gardeners every afternoon from 1 to 3, lit by a laptop while his 4-year-old naps in the backseat because he and his wife made the mistake of putting off sleep training. So now the combination of the smell of leather, In-N-Out burger and having daddy in arm's reach has become the magic recipe for his daughter's afternoon snooze, which when you think about it, sounds like a pretty fantastic way to go to sleep.

What’s the “mistake of the week” you bounced back from? Share it in the comments!

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