Am I doing the right thing?
Those are the words that hit me after I’ve had a difficult parenting moment, and when I lay in bed staring into the darkness mulling it over and over again.
It is like a physical pain in my heart when I think about my kids. Am I doing this well? Did I choose right? Was I too harsh? Did I let them manipulate me? Was I too lenient? Did I give them what they needed not just for now, but also for long term wholeness?
I think about each of my kids and their needs. I wonder if I see all that’s going on in their little hearts and minds or if I’m missing something important. I wonder if I’ve already created any wounds in their identity. I wonder if they truly know (down to their very bones) how much I love them, and how much I believe in them with my whole heart and soul.
Being a Mom is just so much messier than I anticipated. I get it right sometimes, I know I do, but other times I’m just not sure and that’s a hard uncertainty to swallow.
I question myself when one of my kids has an outburst fit for the stage and I think, aren’t they too old for this??
I question myself when my son rolls his eyes and sighs.
I question myself when they’re all bickering and snapping at each other, and instead of being a calm presence, I snap too.
I question myself when I am strict, and I question myself when I am relaxed.
I question myself when they’re mad at me (even though I know that’s a normal part of parenting).
I question myself when I stop at two songs and no story at bedtime.
I question myself daily, nightly, sometimes hourly.
As I walk away from those moments it hits me like it always does, “am I doing the right thing? Am I doing a good job? Is it my fault? Is there some magic formula that I haven’t found yet?”
I think that’s why articles with headlines that boast three *magic* ways to parent are such clickbait. They give the illusion of certainty. “If you just parent this one way the kids are going to be alright”, and then the clincher: “but make sure you DON’T do it this other way or everyone is screwed”. Nothing like a little fear to drive an article home.
The fact is, there’s no certainty; there just isn’t. There isn’t “one way” to do this right, but there are a whole lot of ways to do our best.
I’m never going to “know”; I’m just going to do my best. I’m going to do my best to love them, cherish them, and make sure they don’t grow into assholes.
Yes, someday my kids might sit in front of a counselor and tell them about how I gave them timeouts or that I didn’t listen well sometimes. I have to make peace with that, because I cannot control their story. (Though I’ll be honest, I wish so hard I could).
I did my best, and that’s all I could do.
My mom did her best, and that’s all she could do.
And her mom did her best, and that’s all she could do.
We are moms, not magicians.
We are human and flawed, and we can’t read minds or see the future (no matter how hard we might try).
There are a lot of ways to love our hardest and teach them the best we know how.
There are a whole lot of ways to do our best; and that is enough.