The Muscle Memory Affect

I have always been one of those people that friends, and even strangers at the park, came to for advice. It’s easy to look around at people who seem like they have all the answers, and feel as if they themselves never struggle. That’s simply untrue. Sometimes we share stories to encourage or to offer wisdom. Other times we share stories……simply because we need the honesty, and a knowing that every parent has “those days.” The honesty reassures us that we are not alone.

It’s always fun to share humorous conversations, or heart warming tales, but what happens when one of your children makes poor decisions, and deceives in an attempt to cover up those actions? I’ll let you in on a secret…. its less fun to share those things with friends, but I will….because I believe we must embrace all the technicolor moments of motherhood.

Yesterday one of the children’s bedrooms had a “mystery smell.” I could not place it, and it drove me nuts for the majority of the afternoon. Bedding was washed, windows where opened, questions were asked. Emphatic denial got us nowhere, and ultimately lead to an aggressive search of each child’s bedroom.

There are moments in motherhood where in a matter of 5 minutes you are hit in the face with the truth that you may have been letting one of your children function on auto pilot. As I crouched down and looked under one of my children’s beds I was having that ah-ha moment.

Each child demands a variety of things from us, and the “easy ones” often get set to simmer while we scramble to focus our energy on the ones whose pots are boiling over. I have four children, and it would be easy to claim this particular issue is more amplified in a bigger family, but honestly we all struggle with resource management. We are just one person who is asked to wear many hats. It doesn’t always go flawlessly.

The Blonde had gotten ahold of some Cloraseptic Throat Spray, which I had obviously left out, and proceeded to try and use it on her sister. While not optimal, the Brunette did have a soar throat so at least intent wasn’t misplaced, but this is where it got strange and mind boggling…… she continued spraying the numbing product around the bedroom…like a room freshener.


The spray strangely took on a vinegary, urineesque property when combined with fabrics, toys, carpets etc. Who knew? It was unsavory and beyond the deeper more emotional and psychological undertones that were about to unfold; I was honestly saddest that some beloved toys might not be salvageable because of its destructive powers. Apparently I have become sentimental as I have aged.

Where it got concerning to my mother’s heart was more the emphatic denial as to the source of the smell….all the way up until the very end. Ultimately, I…..found the spray under the bed; along with a variety of other hidden items they had gathered from around the house. I could feel my pulse in my right eye, and I took in a deep breath of air.


Children learn through experiences. There’s a cause and effect muscle that must be built over time, which helps them to navigate increasingly more challenging decision making moments as they age. You can’t achieve the success of choice making without some failures to give you perspective. There’s simply no way to make this journey less painful.

As parents when we help our children to become wise decision makers, it’s critical to step back from the moment. It’s even more essential to embrace the truth that the present circumstances are in fact not the actual thing you need to focus your corrective energy on….but rather that they are simply a byproduct of a deeper issue.

In the midst of a 19 minute rant that followed on touching, using, and hiding things with chemicals in them, I reiterated one of my foundational parenting rules, “If you make a mistake BUT come to me, confess what you have done, and ask for my help in navigating or correcting it… will not be punished. If I find out you have lied or intentionally hidden things from me, the consequences will be twice as serious.” These were the very evolved words that came out of my mouth.

Sure sometimes there are natural consequences your children will have to endure following their choices, but the point I was trying to bring home was that honesty and transparency were my ultimate objectives. If those traits were demonstrated, I would not issue any additional parental punishment should open communication be pursued as a first line to dealing with a situation.

I’ll be honest, that family rule is hard sometimes to follow through with, especially when something gets broken. It can be difficult to keep your full composure in every moment as a parent. I choose instead to focus on the larger objective: the development of their character. I want a spirit of contrition……more than a striving for perfection. I want a desire to seek change…..more than a refusal to acknowledge fault.

After the tiny rant, I called a dear friend who wisely said, “If they could raise themselves they wouldn’t need parents.”

True! So then what is our role in the lives of these future influencers, contributors, and humanitarians?

Obviously we are sheltering, educating, clothing, and feeding them, but there is sooooo much more. We are helping them to navigate life as kind, aware, honest, hard-working, quality people. I’m not sure if you have realized this yet….but it’s kind of a lot of work to bring up quality people.

I want to ask you to think about something….maybe the next time we have coffee with that frazzled new mom we should stop telling them it’s going to get easier….because the truth is its not going to get easier. The challenges change, the circumstances evolve, the struggles scale….it will be different….but not easier. There is no auto pilot for parenting. There definitely are rewards and blessings as part of the overall process, but those moments are earned. They do not just happen.

I’ll be honest, last night I was not enjoying parenting, not only because I was disappointed in things my child had done, but also because I was seeing my own imperfections….and that’s not my favorite part of adulting. I am a good mother. I know that, but there are times where you just do the deep sigh.

We dealt with things. We cleaned things. We are still dealing with and cleaning things even today. Last night as I tucked my children into bed I kissed each of them on the forehead and said, “I love you, and I want you to know there is nothing you can do that will make me stop loving you. I will not always love the choices that you make, but my love for you is without condition.”

Motherhood lived in technicolor reminds me that we may not always have all the answers…..but that we can rest in the truth that we are all doing our best. I won’t sugar coat it….some days our best does need a little work. That’s okay….because on those days there’s our friends to keep us from spiraling out…..and the love…..there’s always the love.

Author: Summer Smith

Summer Smith is a speaker, writer, and motherhood blogger. She and her family are currently navigating the suburbs of Northern Virginia. As the mother to four young children, Summer maintains her sanity thanks to her sense of humor, copious amounts of coffee, and Amazon Prime. Maya Angelou once said, when reflecting on her childhood, that her mother left an impression like technicolor stars in the midnight sky. Influenced by these words, Summer blogs at her website Motherhood in Technicolor, and can also be found on her Motherhood in Technicolor Facebook page.