When my kids were babies, all I could think about was meeting their needs, keeping us all fed and getting as much sleep as possible. I also tried to keep us all bathed and showered...daily was the goal, but I can't say that we always achieved it. I was also attempting to manage our household. I didn't believe it could all be so hard. I couldn't wait until the kids could talk and tell me what they needed. I couldn't wait until they could walk and not have to be packed.
Later, I would learn how easy babies were when I had to clear the house of anything breakable from the waist down and suspect any and all silence. I lived for naptime when I could hopefully get a quick shower and not be exclusively in charge of keeping a tiny person from harming themselves whilst exploring the environment. It was so much harder than having a baby, or so my now experienced mom brain would think. I couldn't wait until they could really think, write and communicate effectively. I was especially excited for kids that could get in and out of the car on their own.
I kept thinking that each age would get easier and then discovering that each age was in fact, harder than the last. Fast forward to now-two grown children and one who turns eighteen in June. This is what I thought would be NIRVANA...kids that can be left by themselves, drive, work, and really help around the house. It would be easy as pie. But, alas, there is no pie. It isn't even a cake-walk. In fact, it contains very little sweetness, in my humble opinion. It is stinking hard. Because I have three daughters, I have three very tough critics. We judge our same sex parent the hardest. And, things are very black and white until about age 25-when the brain is officially finished with its physiological development. All these things add up to the perfect storm of momma stress.
It is at this stage in my mommy career that I begin to second guess myself. Should I have waited longer to start them to school? Was homeschooling a good option for us? Should I have been stricter? Should I have been less strict? Maybe I should have been a working mom? Look at all of my bad habits, they have developed some of them! I'm not very nice. I wish we had traveled more. I can't believe we didn't save for this or that. I thought I'd be more confident. I am totally faking this whole 'adult' thing. I have NO IDEA what I am doing. I'm terrified that I may have ruined my kid's life. Yup, that last one sums it all up. I did not read I Love You This Much enough and now my child doesn't feel loved enough. I didn't ever follow through with that whole prayer journal thing and now our life is falling apart. I never got that whole chore system chart off the ground and now my kids are slobs. I have failed my children.
This is the kind of thinking that will drive me crazy, maybe even launch a full depression. So I just can't go there. Believe me, it will take a huge effort not to go there. My children will try to take me there. They are looking for a way to make their failures into my failures. I tried it on my own parents. I'm just now owning some of my crap. But the terrible truth is this: We are ultimately responsible for ourselves. My children are ultimately responsible for themselves. I have tried to train them up to take responsibility. If I somehow didn't, LIFE will absolutely teach it to them. LIFE is a very effective teacher: No work, no money. No car, no go. Bad boyfriend, bad relationship. Give rude, get rude. No study, no pass. My good friends, Harold Ann and Sara M., both gave me the best parenting advice, respectively: "God loves them more than you do." and "We are raising children who need a savior." Sometimes I have to say these over and over to myself. There is no such thing as the perfect parent. No one gets it all right. We all do the best we know how. Some of us had great examples, some of us had terrible examples. Some of us will have kids that conquer the world and experience amazing successes. Some of us have kids that will fail so many times, we will cry ourselves to sleep wondering when they will get back on track. Letting go is the hardest thing...but we have to. Holding on keeps our baby birds from fledgling. Fledgling is the only way they are going to learn to fly.