(Inside: Being a parent is hard. However, even though motherhood can be hard, this one question will refocus our thoughts in a life-giving way.)
My three young boys and I still had not made it through the security checkpoint.
The airport was hot, our carry-ons heavy and we stood uncomfortably close to strangers. Turtles moved faster than that line. Turtles didn’t even have to be alive to move faster than that line.
What little space remained between us, our luggage, and the passengers next to us, my two younger boys somehow managed to fill. They sprawled out on the floor in discomfort, their limbs intruded on strangers, and they whined like champs. I impatiently reprimanded them. My oldest son yelled at his brothers to stop – continually and loudly. With the same intensity of the volume he brought, I reprimanded him as well.
Finally, after two long hours, we were heading down the terminal to our plane.
Later, I thought about how trying to get through an overcrowded airport alone with my boys can bring out the worst in me.
Then the image of my oldest son trying to get his brothers to quit being obnoxious popped into my head.
Oh, my goodness. My oldest son was trying to help me. When his dad is not around he likes to become the man of the family. I know this about him, so why did I reprimand him? Yes, I know he was yelling in strangers’ ears, but my poor little man stretched his wings of manhood and I immediately clipped them.
Disappointment in myself washed over me.
Parenting is hard.
It is wonderful, rewarding, and amazing, but hard. And it just gets harder. For one simple reason: as the kids get older, they remember. Our words matter.
It’s hard to lay emotions aside and know what to say when. It is hard to know when to push and when to pull back.
We can all entertain parenting fears like what if my kid could be really good at – insert sport, talent, academics here – but I never pushed him/her hard enough and he/she missed out? Or what if I pushed my kid to be good at – insert sport, talent, academics here – but my kid hated it and never told me and grew up resenting the activity and me?
We can freak out if our kid hasn’t hit a milestone or learned something as quickly as the kid up the street. We can compare ourselves to all the best qualities of other parents, then, of course, feel like we fall short. We can helicopter too much. Or we can give our kids independence then kick ourselves when they fail because we doubt our decision to let go. We can worry our children’s shortcomings reflect our own parenting failures.
Look. I know intentional parenting is good. But unhealthy pressure and unrealistic expectations are not.
But here’s the thing: even though I can question and worry about my effectiveness as a parent, my heart tells me – Are you ready for this? – it doesn’t matter. Whether we put unhealthy pressure or not on ourselves, our kids are going to turn out okay.
Haven’t generations of imperfect parents before successfully raised kids? Didn’t the generation before us have to walk both ways uphill barefoot in the snow to school? That generation turned out fine.
Our generation turned out fine too. When I think of my own childhood, I don’t remember it as perfect. I remember sometimes being pushed and sometimes not. I remember good conversations and frustrating conversations with my folks about the decisions I made. I remember good times and hard times. (Mom, I am so sorry about junior high.)
In the normal ups and downs of family life, I have fond memories. Why? Because I always felt loved.
Hmmm…that thought is telling.
Maybe when this parenting thing gets hard and we are not sure what to do, we can simplify it. We can let go of all the unhealthy expectations and ask ourselves: In this situation, does my kid feel loved?
After our airport incident, my oldest son had to write about his happy place for third grade. This is what he wrote:
“My happy place is a place I go a lot. My books are at that place. My cool collections are there. My toys are there. My neighbors are at that place. My family is there too. My happy place is home.”
Be still, my heart. Despite my mistakes, my son still likes home best.
As parents, we won’t do everything right. We will not always be sure what the best thing to do or say is, but we can confident of one thing: we know how to love our kids. We can create a home that embraces them. We can be a family that learns together, is full of grace, is accepting and safe, and loves deeply.
We can create a happy place.
Being a parent is hard, but there’s encouragement waiting for you. Read the full “Imperfectly Thrive in Parenting” series.
Parenting is one of my biggest joys. I’ve always wanted to be a mom. From a young age, I prayed to have a family, and sometimes I pinch myself that my dream came true.
However, because this phase of life means so much to me, I can put too much pressure on myself to make the most of every moment, to handle every situation flawlessly, and to be the best mom ever. The truth is, I won’t do it all well and it’s not supposed to be that way.
One of God’s goals for me is to lean on him – to turn to him, to trust in him, to seek his guidance and favor in this motherhood experience. The dips and turns and messy in mom-life help me do that.
What a gift the imperfect can be. I do my best to try and articulate this idea in my imperfectly thrive in motherhood series. I hope you enjoy reading as much as I enjoyed writing.
Imperfectly Thrive in Parenting Series
Do You Need to Simplify Parenting? Collect Moments, Instead
Being a Parent is Hard for This One Reason: Here’s What Helps
Healthy Helicopter Parenting: A Story to Life You Up
Why Mom Mistakes Can Be Good
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Cheryl is a mom of 3 boys, wife, speaker, high school teacher, and author of Empowered Moms & Kids. She has a Master’s degree in Educational Leadership and is passionate about learning and teaching. On www.empoweredmomsandkids.com you’ll find inspiration and encouragement for moms raising tweens and/or teens. Read more in the “about” section of this page.