'Punky Brewster' star Soleil Moon Frye: How to be a perfectly imperfect parent

'Punky Brewster' star Soleil Moon Frye: How to be a perfectly imperfect parent
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Soleil Moon Frye
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Editor's note: When it comes to parenting, some things never change. The message of this essay by "Punky Brewster" star Soleil Moon Frye is as true now as it was when she first penned it for TODAY back in 2011. We're revisiting it in concert with a new TODAY All Day special about "perfectly imperfect" pandemic parenting that features Frye, “Punky Brewster” co-star Cherie Johnson, TODAY's Sheinelle Jones and Dylan Dreyer, and many longtime contributors to our TODAY Parenting Team.

There I was holding my beautiful new baby. I had her in my arms nestled next to me, cherishing each and every moment of that new baby smell and I was madly in love. The moment I had waited for my whole life was here. I was a mother.

For years I had envisioned the type of mother I would be. After all, I had adopted Cabbage Patch dolls as a kid. I daydreamed about the family I would have. I would ask the Ouija board who I was going to marry and the Magic 8 Ball when I was going to fall in love. I just knew I would be that free spirit carrying my baby around with ease and grace. Sling across my chest, and spring in my step.

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Within days the reality set in. No sleep, spit up covering my hair, clothes on inside out: I was a mess. There were so many things nobody told me about.... And those parenting books I read had made it seem so easy. I remember stopping a woman in the parking lot and actually asking her how to open the stroller. Thankfully she was nice enough and helped me without judgment. I kept thinking to myself: Am I the only one that can't seem to get this parenting thing down perfectly?

Soleil Moon Frye shared this photo with TODAY back in 2011. In it, the future mom of four is pictured with her two oldest children, Jagger and Poet. (TODAY archive)
Soleil Moon Frye shared this photo with TODAY back in 2011. In it, the future mom of four is pictured with her two oldest children, Jagger and Poet. (TODAY archive)

Then I started sharing my experiences through social media and realized that I wasn't so alone. I would talk about the cookie sprinkles on the floor, the finger paint that I sat in, the spit up, the messy moments. And I realized that there were others like me.

I was so grateful to all of the parents that shared with me all of their imperfections. It made me realize that as long as I did my best, that was what really mattered.

Related: As moms and dads, our parenting journeys can surprise us with plenty of unexpected twists and turns.

It also made me wonder: As parents, are we a little too hard on each other? Have so many books and experts made us feel less than ideal? Is it time that we embraced the craziness — the Sharpies on the wall, and the fact that maybe our kids going for a swim in the pool might just pass as a shower — as a sign of parenting operating at its best?

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It is messy and chaotic but it is (what I titled my 2011 book) "Happy Chaos." As I sat on an airplane to New York right before the book launch, I found myself surrounded by my girls, my nieces, and my big brother and his wife. Somehow, as fate would have it, the book came out the day before my oldest daughter Poet's birthday. Mommy needed to be in New York for the book tour. How could I make it special? How could I find the balance? I struggled with this question...

Related: Soleil Moon Frye opened up about her favorite "Punky Brewster" episodes in an interview with TODAY.

I decided to bring the whole family, of course. Find the best deal possible, pack everyone on the plane, share a hotel room, and take them all to Manhattan. Would it be stressful? Maybe. Would it be crazy chaotic? Probably. Would we be diverted to Pittsburg to wait for hours in the airport while the thunderstorms blew over? Yes ... Would it take 20 hours of travel time with four children and four adults? Absolutely.

But that is how we live our lives, and what makes us perfectly imperfect.

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