Parenting 101: Learning to Let Go

I made a monumental rookie mistake the other night. I attempted to fold laundry with the kids around. More than three years into the parenting game, I should have known better. That’s pretty much the equivalent of Russell Wilson throwing an interception on the goal line in the waning seconds of the Super Bowl. You just can’t have mental lapses like that.

My 3-year-old has, at best, a tenuous grasp on the purpose of laundry folding. For all he knows, the goal very well could be this…

Or this…

Or maybe even this…

Of course, to make a painfully long story short, after about 45 minutes, our end product looked like this…

There was a time when this inability to complete simple tasks frustrated me to no end. Well, let’s be real, it still frustrates me, but at least now I’ve learned to cope a little. I quickly realized that when you have small children, focusing on task completion is the ultimate fool’s errand. Of course, accepting this reality did not transform me overnight into a paragon of Zen-like patience. I am a task completion junkie. I need to complete tasks like some people need their morning coffee (well, that’s also me) or their daily chocolate fix (ahem, well, me again) or a nightcap to wind down (finally, not me).

Empty a full dishwasher and neatly stack all the plates and bowls in the cabinet? Huge adrenaline rush.

Finish reading a book, not so much for the joy of reading, but so I can check it off my ‘to read’ list? Yes, please.

Listen to and delete all the new episodes in my podcast app? Don’t stop!

Delete all the junk emails from my inbox? Oh my God, yes!

Enter all the monthly bill amounts into my spreadsheet and shade the last cell gray to indicate that every bill has been paid? That’s the dream!

So, needless to say, constantly being interrupted in the middle of my task completion often leaves me tweaking pretty hard. But when it comes to parenting, in most cases, the only real option is to make like Elsa and just let it go.

It takes an hour to finish putting away a load of laundry?

Let it go.

You try to unload the dishwasher, but you have to stop every 27 seconds because the opening of the dishwasher door is like a Siren call for 10-month-olds?

Let it go.

Intractable differences between you and your 3-year-old ruin your creative vision for Mommy’s Valentine’s Day card?

Let it go.

Kid 1 finally goes to bed after a colossal struggle, you’re all ready to finally kick back and binge watch some Parks and Recreation, and 30 seconds later Kid 2 wakes up?

Let it go.

You make a room-to-room sweep to clear away the ever accumulating layer of toys from the floor only to find that by the time you make it back to your starting point, an FAO Schwartz show room has spilled its entire contents onto your living room floor?

Let it go.

Spend 2 hours cooking a dinner that would normally take 30 minutes because you’re either balancing a 10 month old on your hip while somehow attempting to chop onions or performing periodic suicide sprints across the kitchen to stop said 10 month old from devouring dog food?

Let it go.

Yes, when you get down to it, letting go is one of the most important parenting skills that everyone has to cultivate. First you learn to let go of your pre-kid self image; your goals, desires, and aspirations that only involved yourself. Later, you have to let go of your kids. Let them go to school, let them become more independent, and eventually, let them move on to live their lives.

In between, you have to let go of your need for order and structure and just embrace the messiness.

This isn’t to say that you can’t sometimes have it all. Like any good junkie, I still find ways to get my fix. Some nights when both kids are simultaneously asleep (during that precious 15 minute period of bliss), I’ll sneak away into the kitchen, open up the dishwasher door, empty out all the clean dishes in record time, plow through the pile of dirty dishes that has taken over the sink, start the dishwasher back up and revel in the whirring crescendo of my accomplishment. You definitely can’t hold me back anymore.

This post first appeared on the Huffington Post Blog: