A couple of months ago during a MOPS meeting, they passed out discussion questions. One of them was “What is the Hardest Part of Being a Mom”? I was only a handful of days postpartum (Yes I was at a meeting the week after I had Boy.) and my immediate answer was Time Management. I was working on trying to balance everything on the bare minimum amount of sleep that is given to newborn mothers… As we went around the table, everyone’s answers reflected their given stage in motherhood. “Letting go…”, “Letting them make mistakes…”… Things like that. Two answers stuck out to me though, and changed my perspective in lots of ways. The first was “To Forgive Myself for Not Being Perfect” and the other was “To Let Them Make Their Own Mistakes”.
None of my MOPS friends know that months later I still mull over their answers to this question. How true were those last two answers? Mother’s guilt often creeps into my brain telling me that I am not a great mother because of some small insignificant detail that at the moment gains inflated status. Oh my GOSH I didn’t have something for her to do while we waited at the vet for the dog. Oh NO!!! She didn’t have a snack! Shame on ME! I didn’t jump when he whined, even though I knew he was hungry. Oh, Man! Our house isn’t perfectly organized, and I cannot find the balls for the baby ball-popping toy. Somehow I don’t think my kids are going to become lifelong criminals because I had to balance life and sometimes they didn’t have immediate gratification. Guess what? When they are adults, immediate gratification isn’t always a reality. In fact, it’s not natural. There are very few instances that things organically pop up just in the instant that YOU want them. They pop up when it is the right time for them in the world, not for YOU and your wants. Anyhow, forgiving yourself for not being perfect for everyone in every situation is truly a difficulty that all of us face (even you Martha Stewart). It isn’t possible, but we hold ourselves to that standard. Forgiveness is hard enough for someone else, but giving ourselves a break somehow seems impossible. Forgive yourself for having a life, forgive yourself for having to take care of business for yourself and your family, and forgive yourself for being imperfect. I strive to show my children that it is alright to be imperfect. I like some of my imperfections. They make me me. Maybe if I teach them this reality, they can avoid holding themselves to the impossible standards and maybe reduce that unforgivable guilt that comes with the non-realization of unrealistic expectations.
Letting my kids find their own way is a real challenge for me too. Sometimes I think, DO IT MY WAY! WHAT IS YOUR DEAL KID! Well here’s their deal, they aren’t me. They are them. They need to figure stuff out. Sometimes their way isn’t going to be the same as mine. As long as it doesn’t hurt anyone, I don’t understand why I have such a difficult time with it. Stop making those little noises. Why must you scream echo in parking garages? Why must you put the toys back in the wrong place? What difference does it really make? It’s interesting that it causes me such stress to see my daughter trying things out her own way… This mom probably had the best answer. Both my girl and my boy are going to have lives that sometimes are outside of my understanding. My mom is my best friend. I call her every day and tell her about my life. She never tells me how to live it. I ask for her advice, but she always reminds me that its my life and I have to make my own choices. I admire her ability to do this. She has four girls that all respect her and consider her our closest of friends. That has a ton to do with her ability to let us go and make our own choices. She didn’t like several of our boyfriends. She didn’t like some of the choices we made. She never said anything unless it threatened our safety (or health, or future before we were graduates of college). She showed me how to do it. I hope I learned something. For now, I’m working on not telling my daughter how to play with the PlayDo (WHY MUST SHE MIX THE COLORS AND GET IT ON THE CARPET!?). I also don’t get why the letters from the fridge must leave the fridge (in the shopping cart toy) and go to the bedroom. What’s with the whole “I need to sleep with every stuffy I can think of” policy she has going right now? Can I ask why my son refuses to teethe on anything but his hands?! (Try reasoning with a four month old on the merits of a pacifier/teething ring… He smiles and goes back to chomping on his fist.) I must take the example of my mom and realize that my kids need to find their own way. It’s fascinating to watch. Fighting it will only raise my blood pressure. Not fighting it can be entertaining. As long as they aren’t breaking things, hurting one another, or deviating from our values… I must let them find their way.
Thank you ladies for the different perspective. It’s not about the details, being perfect, or controlling our kids. It’s about guiding them, loving them, and nurturing them. It takes forever to learn to fully realize these characteristics. I guess that’s why our moms look so smart :).