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.