You know those stories that every family tells? The ones that become legends and are required to be dragged out to laugh, sigh, or cringe over every time anything happens that might relate? I added a new one to our story ledger this summer. Along with the humiliation, though, I had a bit of a parenting revelation.

We had rented a cheerful blue SUV for a week of traveling. On our first day on the road, the kids and I visited a popular wilderness area for a few hours. We headed back to the car, but the keys wouldn’t work. In fact, the alarm started blaring the second we got close. I clicked the remote as if my life depended on it. Still, the alarm shrieked through the quiet of the forest. I even tried using the physical key.

From a nearby hill, an older couple called down, “It’s ours,” and tried their remote.

I checked the car next to us to see if it was the one actually sounding off. “No,” I shouted back. “I’m pretty sure it’s this one.”

Again they shouted down. “We’re coming down. It’s ours.”

I thought that would probably be a waste of effort since I was pretty sure the terrible cacophony was coming from the blue car right in front of me, not one of the neighboring cars. The nice gentleman was about halfway to us when my teenager started laughing, “Oh! Mom! It is theirs!”

She’s a pretty smart girl so I took a step back to reassess. No, it was definitely the blue car making all the noise. But then my son chimed in, “It’s theirs!”

At this point, I figured I’d slipped into some sort of alternate reality. Everyone kept insisting that the car in front of me wasn’t actually the one making the racket. I muttered one last, “But it’s this one,” before it hit me.

Yes, it was indeed the blue car we’d gathered around that had the alarm going off. Quite rightly, since it was not OUR blue car—the one I’d parked a few spots down. Chances were, this one belonged to the very accommodating couple, making it THEIR blue car. “Oh my goodness! It is yours!” I finally responded. “I’m so sorry! That blue one’s ours.”

We made our apologies again, moved to the appropriate blue car that opened without incident, and piled in.  It was as we drove away, laughing hysterically, that my teenage daughter said, “Well, at least it’ll make a good story.”  It hit me. 

I worry all the time about what terrible habits I might be passing down to my kids. More than that, I feel insufficient to teach them those things that don’t come naturally to me—life organization, small details, and efficiency. But I’m pretty good at accepting myself for who I am and laughing about it when I do something stupid, like missing the small detail that I’m trying to open someone else’s car. For all of my faults, when something potentially embarrassing happened to us, my kids didn’t melt in mortification or sulk that their mother caused such a scene while they were with me. They joined me in a hearty laugh and found the silver lining.

They won’t leave my nest of a home knowing how to keep an immaculate house; hopefully they come across someone in life that can teach them. But they will have with the ability to laugh at themselves and the quirks of the world . . . and that’s a pretty valuable skill. A sense of humor will serve them well in this crazy world.

Moms, remember this: you don’t have to be perfect. Your weaknesses don’t define who your kids become. Your strengths, whatever they are, become the building blocks for their character. Trust yourself.