Some time ago I was listening to a woman describe her son. She spoke proudly of how he was such a kind boy and then said, “I know it is partly how I raised him, but he also just came that way.”
This woman continued talking but my mind fixed on the simple compliment this woman had just given herself. As if it was a normal thing to do. I began to wonder what it would be like if I could have that kind of confidence in my parenting. I also thought of how wonderful it would be if more mothers around the globe took a moment to pat themselves on the back. To reassure themselves they are teaching their children the right things.
I have thought of that comment frequently since that day. It wasn’t such an astounding thing to say – nothing that could be deemed important, really. But I have thought about that woman’s confidence in what she was doing. Her belief that she was a good mother.
Maybe I worry more than most women, but maybe not. It seems that many mothers I know are concerned they are not doing enough for the children. That is certainly my case. I worry that my gifted son’s depression and apathy towards life was cause because I didn’t allow him to explore his talents more. I didn’t let him awake his creativity. I worry that another child lies and steals to get attention that I am somehow withholding from him. I am concerned that the playful nature of another child is fading because I am too shy to meet parents myself. And the list goes on.
I see my failures and I see where I lack. I know it affects my children and yet, I still can’t seem to change the things that might affect them. I don’t often see the good that I do.
Still, through all that, I find myself attempting to reassure my heart that I am doing the best I can. That my children love me in spite of my weaknesses. It’s a careful line to balance, somewhere between doing my best and failing. I often feel as if I will just teeter right off the tightrope itself.
So, when an outside observer offers a painful, troubling reprimand, it stings. It stings a lot.
It is difficult not to take it personally. Near impossible not to react. I find myself re-evaluating my parenting. Wondering if that person was right in their assessment of me. Scrutinizing everything I have done over the multiple years of raising children. Trying to resolve in my mind the desire to be a good mom with the facts that are before me.
In the end, I decide that we are all just trying to do the best we can. One person’s capacity might not be the same as their neighbors. But it doesn’t mean they are a bad parent or doing a poor job. I have also decided that no parent who is making an effort should ever hear that they are not enough – not if they are trying so desperately to become enough.
In my opinion, us moms need to give ourselves a little credit, like the woman I spoke of earlier. We also need to give the person next to us a little credit. We are all just trying to do our best.
And who knows, if we remember this, we might just find ourselves simply stating to someone, with pride, “It’s because of how I raised him.”