Today I Am A Good Mom

I met a friend for coffee the other night, our first face-to-face get together outside of a group setting and the first social event I’d arranged for myself since moving to Pittsburgh. We sat with our decaffeinated beverages in a Starbucks near my house and chatted about marriage and mothers and, eventually, parenthood.

“I feel like I’m getting it wrong,” she confessed. “I worry that I’m messing them up.”

I remembered when Devin was two and I’d called my mom crying, certain that his daycare biting incidents were early signs of homicidal tendencies. “He’s only two and I’ve already ruined him!”

I looked across the shaky wooden table at my friend and recalled clearly the fear and the guilt that comes from getting parenting wrong. And then I realized the strangest thing: those were feelings from my parenting past.

“It doesn’t really matter what you do,” I told her. “Good parents raise kids who do bad things and bad parents raise kids who do good things. We really don’t have much control over how our kids ‘turn out.’”

The fear on her face gave way to a mixture of panic and disbelief. I understood that, too. It’s terrifying, at first, to think that you can’t keep your kids on a predetermined path, to realize that they will wander under their own power long before they even move out of your house.

I wasn’t making my friend feel any better, in other words.

“I’m obviously not an expert,” I said. “I’ve just been doing this long enough to be tired.”

It was half true. I’m by no means a parenting expert – and I’m suspicious of anyone who claims to be – even though I have been doing this for a little bit longer than she has. But I’m not at all tired of parenting. Sure, I get tired of hearing the bickering between siblings and of issuing the exact same reminders to brush your teeth, comb your hair, clear your plate. But I actually love this stage of parenthood.

I’m not afraid of parenthood anymore.

I’m not constantly seeking affirmation in the media or from my friends about my parenting style. I’m not spending my waking-but-supposed-to-be-sleeping hours trying to figure out how to get my kids to do or not do something (except brush their teeth without being reminded.) I’m still apprehensive about the teenage years, which seem to be barreling towards my household much faster than I’d prefer, but I’m not concerned about doing it right or wrong.

I hardly ever think about what someone else thinks about my parenting.

I don’t agonize over which values I’ll instill in my children and which ones I’ll leave them to figure out on their own.

I’m not usually afraid that I’m leaving permanent scars on them with every interaction (although I can vividly recall the last time I said something incredibly stupid and thoughtless to one of my kids, and the memory twists my heart.)

I love the crap out of my kids, and I know that they know that.

I could tell you, if you were curious enough to ask, what values I’m working on sharing with them.

I know that I’m doing my best.

I’m hopeful that will be good enough.

I’m grateful to have Jared to share the blame with if it’s not.

It was the strangest thing to realize in that coffeehouse that I’ve finally come into my own as a mother. It’s like waking up one day and realizing that you’ve stopped accidentally writing your maiden name on your checks.

I’ve spent so much time and so many words on my parenting fears. I’ve bonded with other women over the shared certainty that we weren’t living up to our own standards. I’ve laughed and cried and recounted at length the trials and outright failures of my motherhood.

But not that night. And not today.

I know that nothing lasts forever and there’s no such thing as “smooth sailing from here on out.” But still, it’s a pretty cool thing to stop and take note when an awkward, anxiety-riddled stage has finally passed. It’s nice to take a mental picture of myself in this confident phase; I’ll tuck it away for the first time I find out one of my kids had sex or cheated on a test.

Today, I am a good mother, and I know it.

That, as much as the days when I think I’m getting it wrong, is worth remembering.

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  1. Naomi says:

    Well said.
    Naomi’s most recent post: Food and Home

  2. the muskrat says:

    I get comments on my blog all the time about how my children will need lots of therapy. This makes me feel better!
    the muskrat’s most recent post: new beginnings

    • Miss Britt says:

      There’s nothing wrong with therapy. I love therapy! I hope my kids go to therapy someday!

  3. daniel says:

    There’s so much I can say here. We did so much “right” with our oldest, and still wound up having to send him to boarding school. He was a complete @$$ and was on a bad path to self destruction. Now he’s beginning his third year of college and we have a decent relationship.

    Having multiple children really does show how you can raise your kids the same and they will still turn out differently. There is that aspect of doing the best you can and then letting go – which is so incredibly hard. And letting go has to start early. That doesn’t mean you take a lackadaisical attitude, but let them suffer the consequences of their actions and let them learn for themselves. You have to have a certain amount of faith in your kids they will take in the things you’ve taught them.

    wow, I really do have a lot to say on this. I’ll shut up now.
    daniel’s most recent post: 2012 With The Aquasox

    • Miss Britt says:

      And this is why I say that I’ve learned the most about parenting from other parents. Your story, as you know, is not unique. (I mean, it is because it’s YOURS, but, well, you know what I’m saying.)

  4. red pen mama says:

    Out of my three kids, I think I’m doing okay with one at any given time. I’m certainly not doing great with all three at the same time, which is pretty scary and frustrating. However, I am doing my very best, and I love the crap out of my kids, and we’re pretty much going from there!
    red pen mama’s most recent post: Random Thoughts: The So This Happened Editon

    • Miss Britt says:

      Hahaha – this is perfect, and probably close to how I feel. I’m good with getting one at a time right!

  5. Lisa says:

    This is so true! I came to this realization much later than you. I’m kind of a control freak. As Daniel said, the hardest thing is letting them make the mistakes and watching them suffer the consequences. I still want to cushion his every blow, and I know I can’t do that. It took me a long time to be at peace with that.
    Lisa’s most recent post: Adventures in Cake

    • Miss Britt says:

      Well I came to this realization because of being friends with women like you. Obviously you should have had old lady friends when you were younger!

  6. Megan says:

    Oh if I only knew then what I knew now… I would have had a lot more fun!
    Megan’s most recent post: I Wear Too Much Black

  7. i dated a guy who was raised with his siblings in a drunken, abusive home. every single time i was around his siblings i was blown away how two of them turned out to not drink at all and put themselves through college and one of them is a drunk who beats his wife. how could kids in the same house not all take the same path? incredible.

    you are a good momma. xoxo
    hello haha narf’s most recent post: Adventure in Tahn

  8. Oh my gosh…as a “step” mom I spent a good while fearing that I wasn’t good enough. That because I wasn’t technically their mom I couldn’t ever be a good enough mom. I too have recently realized that the fear is gone. And it’s such a relief!!!
    Carrie Monroe O’Keefe’s most recent post: You’re. (I’m). All. Talk.

    • Miss Britt says:

      I think being a step parent would be SO tricky. Glad you’ve found your comfort zone with it.

  9. Sometimes, it really is one thing to say to oneself that “I know the best for my children” and a whole different thing to truly and wholly believe it. Some days we doubt ourselves, but some days, we know it with a calm certainty. Wishing everyone more days like these! :)
    Andrea | EC Simplified’s most recent post: Reader Round-up! What Blogs and Forums We’re Reading

  10. autumnesf says:

    Yes! Yes! Yes! A good parent teaches and models (and makes mistakes) and never gives up. As long as you never give up you are a good parent. And no matter what you teach or model, its up to the kid to take it from there. They are completely capable of rejecting your teaching and pulling a stupid. And that is THEIRS to own, not ours. Once I realized that I lost all the guilt and enjoyed parenting so much more. Because I am being a good mom. Now what are you going to do with it kid?
    autumnesf’s most recent post: Pinterest Project #10

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