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You Don’t Have to Be Perfect. Be Present.

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I had to drop something off at my girls’ school this morning, and as I pulled up, I noticed the parking lot was full all the way to the street. There was a moment of internal mild panic. I hadn’t heard of anything going on! My kids usually keep me in the loop, and I get regular texts from the school, so I was a bit freaked out.

Parents were bringing in food from all different vehicles, hiking up the hill in their work clothes, scrubs, regular clothes, yoga pants, you name it. I asked somebody what was going on, and discovered that it was the K5-1st grade “brown bag breakfast”.

I’d forgotten that they did that, since mine are older. Parents bring breakfast to school and eat with their child. That’s it. As far as I know, anyway.

There were so many parents. Equal numbers of moms and dads, taking time out of their day to sit and eat breakfast with their child at school. The parental involvement was inspiring to me.

Mindful parenting makes all the difference.

It matters to you, it matters to your kids. I am not at all perpetuating parent-guilt, and Lord knows I have not been at every single thing, but I’m very upfront with my kids about my limitations (and there are sooo many things). Regardless, I make it a priority to be there as often as possible. Not just school events, but in their lives.

About a year ago, I arrived at the school right as the Christmas program started. I stood against the wall, watching my daughter on the little stage they’d set up. She was looking for me. Her face was solemn, her eyes searching. She sang half-heartedly, obviously distracted.

At one point, she quickly wiped her eyes. I realized that not only did she not see me yet, she was hurt by my perceived absence. She was trying to hold back tears.

I had promised her I would be there, and I don’t make promises lightly.

If I say it, it shall be (to the best of my ability and control). If I’m not sure I can make an event, I tell them ahead of time, and then we usually do something special after school to make up for it.

She finally saw me, about halfway through the program. Her face broke out into a grin, and she started looking forward and singing loudly with her class. Mom’s here. She cares.


I’ve been thinking about all of the parents that I saw at the school this morning. No doubt, many of them had to take a little time away from work. Some may be unemployed, and stressed about money. Others may be stay at home parents, and have no problem scheduling the time to be at these things. I have no idea.

There were also parents who couldn’t be there, due to work or plenty of other reasons. Life happens. It’s ok.

It’s not about being perfect.

For me, this has been a gift of sobriety. I went to the programs and class parties, even before I quit drinking altogether. I wasn’t really there, though. My world was so chaotic, I couldn’t fully appreciate anything. So many things felt like chores, and I fought depression and anxiety constantly just to function halfway. My children paid for that. Although I still struggle with depression and anxiety, I have tools that I didn’t have at the time.

I am terrible at birthday parties. I’m the mom who sends an invite about 24 hours before the party, and 1 child shows up (God bless that child). My kids don’t wear matching clothes half the time, but they have good clothes. They just insist on wearing weird stuff. I think I aged 15 years just typing that last sentence.

You know what, though? I’m sober, present, and I’m here for my children. I know exactly which kids are hurting my child’s feelings today, and which kids have been extra nice this week. I know what C, my 8 year old, is struggling with at school, and what she loves about school. R, my 10 year old, is having a hard time with 5th grade. I remember that. We talk about 5th grade, and how much it sucks sometimes, but also how it doesn’t last. There are good things she can find.

 Mindful parenting is easier said than done. It’s a process, a mindset. I am nowhere near an expert on this topic, but I’m closer today than I was last week, and much closer than I would be if I had continued drinking. That’s what counts.

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  3. Brooke Cole on February 12, 2017 at 8:57 am

    I love this <3 Mindful parenting is so important. There are so many barriers keeping us from really being there with our children. For me it's because I have SO much going on. It's hard to take a step back from everything else that SEEMS so important and actually enjoy our children. I need constant reminders of this!

    • Ashley Ann on February 13, 2017 at 7:44 am

      Same here. Even now, it’s so hard to disconnect my brain from everything I have going on, and simply sit and listen. I miss out if I don’t, though (and so do they).

  4. Nicole on February 12, 2017 at 8:13 am

    Great post! Being present for our kids is so important yet so difficult sometimes. With all the stuff going on in our lives it is such a challenge to stop and sit with them and hear what they have to say. That brown bag breakfast sounds like such a great idea.

    Nicole | The Professional Mom Project

    • Ashley Ann on February 13, 2017 at 7:44 am

      I think so too! We are new to this school, so I never got to do this, but my youngest will be in K5 next year so I’ll get to see what it’s all about. It looked really sweet. <3

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Sitting on top of Pike's Peak in Colorado, a little over 2 years sober.

Hi! I'm Ashley, and my sobriety date is May 6, 2015. I write to share my experience, strength, and hope in recovery. On any given day, you can find me developing websites, writing, or chauffeuring kids around.  Read my story...

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