Building a Plane… While Flying It

LaKeisha Dupree, Case Manager

“Please be patient with us, we’re building a plane while flying it.” That was the explanation given to my staff as we were trying to implement new state standards for funding old programs. It was the first time I heard that phrase and all I could do is laugh. More recently, I heard a government official say the same thing about coordinating the response to the recent Coronavirus pandemic.

This week as I was driving home from work, I was angry with myself. Over the last few weeks, I was, in my mind being a bad parent. (Side bar: What we say to ourselves matter. If you wouldn’t say it to your child or your best friend, don’t say it to yourself!) I was angry, short tempered, and impatient with my toddler. It’s been a stressful few weeks for me. But kids don’t see that, especially toddlers. She saw mom. Her orange provider, jungle gym, always there to do whatever she needed… mom. Once I noticed my behavior, I was embarrassed and ashamed. I was being who I said that I never wanted to be. As I began to beat myself up, I was reminded of 2 things… One, to extend the same grace that I give to my children to myself. Two… the phrase: “building a plane, while flying it”.

Grace.

The very thing that reminds me that my toddler has only been on this earth for 3 years and I have to tailor my expectations to such.

Grace reminds me that within those 3 years, she’s experienced more transitions than I could count.

Grace reminds me to be patient with her when she has an accident. In the grand scheme of things, she’s only been potty trained for less than 6 months. She’s worn a diaper for longer than she’s been wearing underwear. So, yes, she’s still figuring out this timing thing.

Grace reminds me that when she screams out of frustration, she simply doesn’t have the verbiage or patience to tell me what’s wrong. Extending that same grace to myself looks like me remembering that I’ve only been a mom for 3 years. And that as she enters each stage, I have to learn how to handle it while teaching her the same.

Grace also looks like, remembering that I am allowed to make mistakes and giving myself credit for acknowledging when I’m not momming the best and being kind to myself while trying to fix it.

Grace sounds like affirming within myself that I am doing my best.

Grace reminds me that, most of the time, my baby doesn’t see my flaws. She sees “the best mommy ever.”

Grace reminds me that every day is a new day and prevents me from beating myself up for yesterday’s mistakes.

“Building a plane, while trying to fly it” is the perfect metaphor for parenting. We’re not building single jet engines; we’re building Air Force Ones!

While parenting is one of our most important jobs, it isn’t our only job. We are trying to shed past traumas; break generational curses; create wealth; start businesses; cook; clean; wife; be activists; fight racism; follow politics; support our village and more all while making sure our edges are intact. Yes. We’re going to get things wrong. Yes. We are going to have to change our plans. Yes. We are going to have to experiment and tinker with different strategies. There will be days when we fall short as parents.

So, the next time you begin to beat yourself up about your parenting remember, you are a self-taught Human Engineer! Take a break, breathe, give yourself GRACE, drink your wine (or drink of choice) and pat yourself on the back! You’re doing GREAT!


LaKeisha is a wife and mother to a toddler (3) and bonus mom to 3 beautiful, young adults (21, 19, 19). She has worked with children for over ten years. She credits her village for helping her to be the best mom she can be!

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