Parenting is a tricky business.
The group of mothers I’ve come up with, we’re all negotiating a curve, these days.
A time when “parent” becomes less a noun, more a verb.
The first 5 years or so are consumed with busy work. Just keeping them alive is a measure of success. Then, they’re potty trained and walking and spending more time at school than at home. We breathe a little easier, maybe. Sure, the drudgery is still there. Clean this, cook that, sign this, don’t forget that. But we relax.
Then all of a sudden, we realize there are emotional needs to be considered, now, too. Not just the ones we can control anymore, either. Do our kids have friends? Are they heading toward being decent people? Which lessons are actually sticking, which ones discarded like snotty kleenex?
Worse yet? The feeling that even now, at the embryonic ages of 6 or 7, doors are closing. Opportunities are passing.
That we have the potential to actually fail the little buggers.
I have this friend. She is amazing at this job.
All my mom friends have strengths. Wonderful, awesome, breathtaking skills with their children.
But this one….
She listens to me, to any of us, bemoan the trials of this job. She agrees, wholeheartedly and honestly, that this job is so fecking hard.
The difference, as far as I can see, is that when I go home, and sometimes do a half-assed job, letting myself off the hook because god dammit, I am tired,
She goes home and she does the work. She stays engaged and interested, and makes sure her kids know they are respected and enjoyed. She draws on bottomless wells of patience.
Even though it would be easier to open a bag of Oreos and call it a snack, she’s there with apple slices, and yet I have never once felt like she threw even a smidgen of judgement my way as I wiped those Oreo crumbs off my kids’ faces. She is laying out craft supplies, when the path of least resistance would be the Cartoon Network. She has raised kids who ask for things like bat costumes and magic capes, while other kids (mine) list off toys according to manufacturer, verbatim from the commercial on which they saw them.
She would never point out that she does the right thing. She just does it.
Which is why my chest hurt when I listened to her, today. A deadline passed. Instructions were vague. Her child would miss out.
And it was because of her.
(Well, that’s her story. I could argue for days that the lack of clarity was on someone else’s part, and that it was all politics, but it wouldn’t change anything, so I won’t.)
In a year, this incident won’t even matter. In a week, even, it will be a whole lot less important.
But today, it made my friend cry.
The idea that she’d let her kid down was just too much. And the fact that it was too much for her was too much for me.
“I’m doing my best” may be a mantra we use, to soothe ourselves, to justify our actions, to buy ourselves peace of mind.
Friend? You’re not just doing your best. You’re doing well. Very, very well.
Parenting is damn hard, and Friend of Ginny, it sounds like you are doing an awesome job. Sometimes, sh*t happens, despite our best efforts, and the best thing we can do, is to learn (and teach our children) how to roll with it, to forgive ourselves the screw-ups, and succeed despite everything else. ((hugs))
Josh was supposed to test for Gate(gifted and Talented) this year and my husband and I totally forgot the whole thing. I was mad at myself for not making it a priority because it earns him access to higher level classes which broadens his educational experience and helps with college entrance. I don’t want to be shutting those doors you talked about.
Then I reminded myself that I know lots of smart people who went to the best schools, graduate school etc. and have jobs that afford them lots of opportunities financially and otherwise. You know what, they are not happier or more professionally satisifed than the ones who didn’t, at least not as a group.
When I want to beat myself up I remember that I am raising people and that people succeed in life by having a wide range of skills and that occassional adversity and heartache can breed empathy and so much of it is out of my control. If I help guide them, they know I am there for them and care enough to push them to try new things and discover what they are good at and like to do, that has to be enough. And somedays, we should get an award for just showing up because this is the most difficult job there is.
Thanks for your kindness to your friend, I think if we as women were easier on each other, we’d be easier on ourselves or maybe the other way around?
i tried…. some… but “tired” often trumped intentions.
looking back (advantage of having sprogs in their early 20’s is that they can help me frame impact of events)? lesson children ALSO need to learn is that sometimes we misfire. opportunities can be lost. is it the end of the world? do we beat ourselves to death for not making a phone call that could have clarified instructions?
or do we teach them to go on… and look for the next opportunity.
sorry your friend is beating herself up… i’m guessing her kids will be ok…
Friend, you sound like you are a fantastic mother! Try not to be too hard on yourself.
Dear Friend of Ginny,
When your kids grow up they will remember a lot about their childhood. They will remember your kiss on a boo boo. They will remember the game of make believe you came up with on a rainy day when they were probably trying your last nerve but at the time they didn’t even know it. They will remember you teaching them things, showing them things, exposing them to different aspects of life. They will remember your smile. They will remember your laugh.
They probably won’t remember how this deadline passed, and how they missed out on some activity. They will probably say “Mom, I don’t even remember where I was supposed to go and what I was supposed to do.”
I don’t know you. But if what Ginny says here is even half right, you sound amazing.
Keep your chin up.
Ugh my little one isn’t even a year old yet and already I am feeling the guilt for every little thing, and the absolute fear of not getting it right. If I can be half the mum that your friend seems to be I’ll be doing ok. I also can’t believe there are so many good mums who beat themselves up for the smallest error, and yet there are are so many atrocious mums, one of whom was in the news today for throwing her ten month old onto the ground, caught on cctv. How lucky our children are to have the good mums, and how desperately sad for the unlucky ones
oh Friend, I hear you.
But believe me when I say your child will not remember this.
They will remember the ‘insert whatever here’ they wanted for ‘insert giftgiving occasion here’ didn’t come even though they never ever breathed a word about it.
THAT they will remember.
Here’s a major point we forget about our kids, they will do whatever they want, we can try and teach them and do everything in our power to help them “succeed” but in the end they are their own person and ultimately may turn out to be a drug addict, serial killer, doctor, lawyer, waitress, painter or god forbid, a politician, it’s their life not ours and of course shit happens, no one wants to let their kid down but who better than mom or dad to teach them things don’t work out sometime through someone screwing up, forgetting whatever or through no fault of anyone and though i applaud the parent who does craft time and slices apples i think now and then a kid needs a donut and some Sponge Bob, then again my kid can tell you what kind of beer i drink so don’t look to me for any parental advice i’m still a child myself.
My kid’s gonna be 30 this year. She’s wonderful!
We teach our children that it’s OK to make mistakes. Hopefully we learn by doing so. This was a touching post Ginny.
There’s much to say and think about parenting, but the observation is rarely made that some parents, god love them, just work too hard at it. It’s totally excusable because it’s motivated by true love, but parents need to cut themselves the same slack they do for their kids. And if you never let the kids alone they will not learn how to entertain themselves, or how to enjoy quiet moments. Instead they’ll become whiny, easily bored adults with ADD.
[steps off soap box]
Thank you all for your comments. Please know that I was not trying to extrapolate the bigger picture, here. I know, my Friend knows, we ALL know that one botched incident does not a degenerate drifter make. I hve always believed that thinking about being a good and effective parent is the most important part, and this post was about the way someone who most definitely thinks about it could ever feel like they were not cutting it (albeit for a very brief moment).
and what’s wrong with being a degenerate drifter may i ask?
I wouldn’t want to presume I can offer any real wisdom in this situation, but maybe you know you are a good parent precisely because you get upset over things like this? Just a thought.
I wish I could be 1/10 of the mother she is.
Thanks for the redirect Ginny. Extrapolation is a reflex for me. Especially when I’m whiny, bored, and distracted …
Your friend sounds amazing. I’m more like you, which is OK. But some days I wish I could muster the strength to be a super mom.
My mom was like that until I was about ten. Then she became the complete opposite. I think after having 5 kids and being Good Housekeeping perfect, it caused her to lose her mind.
The mom version of her I like better is the less perfect one.
I cannot even imagine what it’s like to be responsible for the life of someone else, so you all win at that one. You know. Bettering humanity by raising cool ass kids.
Being a parent is always a challenge, it is just that the types of challenges change as your child grows!
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