I remember my child’s first public meltdown.
No parent asks for their child to turn red and wail like they are being abducted by a stranger over a 99 cent toy.
I remember feeling like such a failure when this happened the first time. It made me question everything because I used to be the person who didn’t understand why children were “allowed” to have meltdowns in public. I thought I would never be that parent.
Isn’t that cute?
Now that I have been mom’ing for a while*, I have noticed that things that may have gotten under my skin in previous years don’t seem to have the same affect that they used to.
No, this doesn’t mean that I consider myself a perfect parent. No, this doesn’t mean that I don’t occasionally feast on a box of bagel bites in an effort to eat my feelings because my children have destroyed what little bit of patience I have left.
*”A while” is a relative term. For me, it’s been almost seven years.
And no, it doesn’t mean that I love my babies any more than a mom who feels like she is struggling to get through each day without ripping her hair out. It just means that we moms grow more battled hardened every day that we love our babies. It’s one of the perks of the job.
Here are a few ways that I am more confident now than when I first became a parent:
1.) They’re fine.
It used to be that whenever one of my children bumped their head, scraped their knee or climbed on top of the coffee table, I would toss whatever was in my hands to the side (so many poor casserole dishes), and rush to rescue my beloved baby.
Now that baby number three is mobile? When I hear an ominous thud, I wait a moment…
Because she’s probably fine.
My children don’t eat as many fruits and vegetables as I would like for them to. In fact, we should probably just buy stock in Goldfish crackers at this point.
Our bedtime routine used to be a drawn out, ceremonial process. Now? We might read a book, and they may or may not even get a bath. We give kisses, say prayers and then sweetly remind them that, “if they come downstairs, someone had better be bleeding because (Batman voice) it’s BED TIME. Okay, good night, love you guys!”
We have learned to navigate fevers and stomach bugs, nightmares and bumps on their heads, scrapes on their knees and Dora the Explorer. We have learned that our children are okay to occupy themselves with coloring books and Lego’s while mommy and daddy have a breather on the sofa in the other room.
I trust my gut so much more now than I used to. And my gut says that they are fine, and that a relaxed and sane parent is actually a better parent.
Even if my children appreciate Skittles way more than they ought, they are still perfectly fine. Everybody is alive. Everybody is happy. And that is enough for me.
2.) Great expectations
The other night, my littlest one had me up several times, once for over an hour. We also had a storm system move through the area, so between the lightening flashing and thunder clapping, and the toddler trying to make conversation at 4 a.m., I didn’t get much sleep.
I woke up with a headache and could barely keep my eyes open, so never mind how outrageous it was that I needed to walk the dog, pack lunches, make breakfast and get the kids off to school.
I realized around 11 a.m. that I hadn’t accomplished much for the day, and I suddenly felt guilty.
Then I decided to wait just a darn minute. I had just spent half of the night awake with the baby, the kids and husband all had clean clothes on – clothes that I washed, dried and folded yesterday – and food in their tummies that I had prepared for them.
Never mind the mess all over the house. My babies were smiling and happy.
I realize now that my greatest critic all along has been…myself. I am always the first to put myself down. And while I believe that sometimes, this inner voice, this conviction, can encourage us to be better, I totally think that most of the time, this inner voice just needs to get with the freaking program.
I have borne three babies in seven years, and sacrificed my abdominal muscles and private bathroom space in the process. My children know that deep down, they are wildly loved by two parents who would do anything for them. Also, my children really appreciate salads, everyone has clean underwear in their drawers, and the house is relatively clean most days. At least, if the definition of clean means not needing to fumigate.
I realize now that the clean dishes and socks I use on the days when I can barely keep my eyes open are the fruits of labor from the days when I have it all a bit more together. Which means that I am probably accomplishing way more in spite of everything going on than I give myself credit for, even if I didn’t realize it then.
Loving your babies is the line in the sand. If all else fails for the day, ask yourself if you have loved your babies. And if you can assuredly say yes for the day, then move along.
The messes will replenish themselves tomorrow without fail. anyway.
3.) No one else matters
So, that sounds a little harsh, right? Maybe it is. But that is a phrase I have had to repeat to myself constantly in my mothering journey.
If you look for validation for your parenting choices from anywhere other than your spouse or yourself, you are looking for trouble.
I could feed my babies a strict organic diet, forgo vaccinations, breast feed each of them for the first two years of their lives and co-sleep with them until they’re a teenager.
And someone would disagree with my parenting.
I could feed my babies a regular diet, vaccinate on time, bottle feed them, enforce rules by using time-out, and homeschool them.
And someone would still disagree with my parenting.
We now have this tendency to overthink parenting; to get validation from “sources” and “experts” to see if we are getting it right. I have to tell you – if in this social media driven world you look for the ultimate validation from the people on Facebook, or even from the people around you, you will eventually be sorely disappointed.
The best that you can do is…your best. Just like everyone else is doing.
We each know our children and ourselves better than anyone else. And there is no such thing in this world as a parent who has it all together.
I now know how to navigate unsolicited advice with a grateful smile and nod, while letting it roll off my back. I now know how to be proud of the decisions that I have made as a parent, even if my kids are eating GMO’s by the truck load. I am now okay with the fact that I am teaching my children to love Jesus and be countercultural is this world, and that there are people who are gonna dislike me for it.
And if someone else doesn’t approve? Well,…okay then??
They are most welcome to come and see if they can do it better than me.