Sometimes it's funny to walk into the room to find your kids watching Modern Family by themselves while they eat pickles from the jar. Or, to joke with your friends how you're Mom of the Year because your son ate an ice cream cone for breakfast, and your daughter told the fitting room attendant that her mom "has big boobie nipples." It's inappropriate, yes. But, it reminds you that life is too. But then, there are times for me, like almost ALL OF THE TIME, when I wonder what I really should be doing. I don't always feed my kids organic. We don't go to the library near enough. My son can't count to two. Did we do enough crafts? Holy shit?!?!? I am ruining my kids lives!
For me, the hardest part about being a mom is wondering if I did enough. At the end of the day, I am constantly replaying the way I chose to speak, chose to love, chose to discipline, chose to mother. Did I give enough hugs, did I over-react, did I even read them a book? The truth is, I've been living in a constant state of guilt for the past five years. Being a parent is a lot of freaking pressure. I mean, I was an only child. I wasn't allowed to have a dog. So, I grew up pretty much a self-absorbed asshole. And now, I have to remember to feed and bathe these kids. And teach them things. And take them places. And try to model proper behavior to ensure these little people grow up to be productive members of society. I'm not even sure I'm a productive member of anything, so this is stressful. What's sad is that my babies think I know every answer to their every question. They think I rock. What they don't know is that I am totally faking it, just as generations before me did with their kids. What's scariest to me is that one day they're going to wake up and be aware of the over-reactions, and impatient remarks, and the lack of playdates and crafts and become bitter. Will they look around and feel like their story has missing chapters because their mama had no clue what was going on, or was in a bad mood and yelled at them, or didn't make the most of a sunny day at the park, or didn't read them the book they asked me to read, or didn't smile at them when they needed it? Yes, I'm convinced most days, I'm just not doing enough.
I look at them and see these innocent little miracles who need so much. They want me to love them, and teach them, and fill them up. And you know what, some days I'm just tired. Or overwhelmed with the pressure of being responsible for this big job of mama. I am the one that can make them or break them. Dear God, what if I break them? How many stories, crafts, hugs, vegetables, activities, field trips are enough? What if it's too late to realize I didn't do it right? Dude. Living with no regrets is damn near impossible with babies because there's always something better you could have done. You could have relished in the day more or pushed the fatigue aside in order to remember that they are little for such a short time.
Even when I am doing my best, I sometimes still feel guilty. Am I being fun enough, creative enough, loving enough? Did I pray for them and with them today? Did they get enough vitamins? No one said this was going to be easy. No one said being a mama was going to bring along feelings of guilt. They promised happiness, and love, and joy. And , please, don't get me wrong. I feel those things too. More than anything else, these babies fill me up. There is nothing that makes me ache with love more than my girl and boy. But along with that achey love is guilt that I am not enough for them. Maybe it's a feeling that they deserve the best, and I don't always give that to them. Surely flopping a soggy Eggo in front of my sweet girl in the morning while proclaiming, "HURRYUPWE'REGONNABELATE!!" is not my best. She deserves more. They deserve more.
Despite my shortcomings, my greatest wish is that my babies know how much I love them. I am not perfect, and they won't be either. I love them despite their imperfections, and I suppose the lesson out of this is that they too, love me despite my imperfections as well. We can't always be on. We don't always respond they way we should, or say the right thing. This is how I suppose I am teaching my children forgiveness, and graciousness, and unconditional love. They love me and I love them, despite our inability to be everything, do everything, and say everything the other needs. Through my years of mothering, the guilt has taught me that we need to be realistic with our expectations of one another. Everyday can't be a walk in the park. Some days need to be boring. Some days need to be low, so they can highlight the days that are high. I need to show my kids that I can't always say or do the right thing. And that's okay, too. Hopefully, this will teach them to have realistic expectations of not only themselves as they grow older, but for their friends and the people in their lives. Most importantly, with the children they will someday have. You see, guilt is often thought of as a negative emotion. But, what I've done is to use it as a motivator. A teacher. A predictor. A few weeks back, Regan spilled her entire dinner in the floor. Not because she meant to, but because she's five and that's what five year oldsAnnnnnnd, cue me freaking out. I chose not to handle my daughter with respect and dignity, but used careless words and raised my voice. I made my kid cry. She felt bad, and I felt worse. Guilt sunk in. So, last night, when she spilled her entire dinner on the floor, because, you know, that's what five year olds do, I was cool. I used that guilt from last time, the guilt that made us both feel bad, and learned that I can choose how to react. Because, never ever, do I want my child growing up being afraid of me. Fear is not a motivator. Being your child's bully is weak. So, what happened last night? Nothing. Because in the grand scheme of things, my child will always be more important to me than a stain on the carpet. The way they see me handle stress, or accidents, or relationships is the way they will one day handle them. The way they see me embrace the beauty in each day is how they will learn to do the same.
The guilt that I carry is my own. I am my own worst critic. All parents are. It's easy to look next door or across town at the parent who's "got it all together." You know the ones. But, as I'm learning all you can give anyone is your best. You go with what feels right, learn from your mistakes, and hope and pray your kids don't grow up to hate you.... or become serial killers.