When I first visited the 'hood called parenting, I had no clue what to do. I did not grow up in a home that would fit any kind of normal. It was not structured or nurturing. My mom did the very best she knew how, and considering her own background...she was parent of the millennium. She broke a chain in her family. However, the first kids in a chain breaking cycle are challenged to say the least. In fact, so challenged that I did not wish to have children or ever get married. Then I met Erik and decided to marry and maybe even have a child. I was convinced that his 'normal' would make us OK parents.
Since I was so poorly educated in the field of parenting, I read every book I could get my hands on so I could become an expert. I also attended a Bible Study called supermoms where I was mentored in how to be a supermom. You know what? I felt like a supermom. My house was clean, my kids were happy and when I COMPARED myself to those around me, I fell somewhere in the middle. I knew people doing better and people doing worse. I felt good with that at first. However, winning at parenting became very important to me. When a parenting tip came my way, I worked it in. I would be a good mom no matter what. Having two kids right in a row is very difficult to say the least. I would overcome that and also continue breaking the cycle of my past ushering in a new normal. I did not just want to be a good mom, I wanted to be the mom everyone else wanted to be like. I longed to finally be pronounced a 'supermom'. I was judgemental, proud and miserable in my own skin.
God, in His infinite wisdom, decided the only way to humble me would be another child. A bubbly child that brought a new level of enthusiasm to our family. A child that also brought with her a new set of rules. This one not only did not suffer from colic for four months, she slept in her own bed...mostly though the night at 2 weeks. She was different in so many ways but as she grew older, the biggest difference was how the tried and true things I had used as discipline for the other two did not exactly work on this one. (In retrospect, I'm not sure how much they worked on the other two or if they just gave in to get a break from me-LOL) Thank you God for the gift of Lilly. Without her, I would have remained content to be 'winning' at being miserable.
Adding a third child also made quite a difference in my housekeeping abilities. Instead of tidying up each night before I went to bed, I sort of gave up a little. Lowered my 'clean' standards a bit. AND I felt like a failure in so many ways. I began to get a taste of sibling rivalry that made me balk! Not my kids! They would love each other like siblings had never loved before because it was first and foremost in the desires of my heart for my children. I began to not be such a strict mom-I started choosing my battles very carefully...and not very often. I began to lower my parenting standards and felt destined for 'bad mommyhood' because of my own upbringing. As others in church would hold classes or just conversations about parenting, I would feel smaller and smaller until I almost felt like I had nothing to even offer my kids but a tired, broken spirit. I began to kind of give up a little. I was still playing the comparison game and losing to anyone I respected. Sometimes even losing to people
I didn't respect. I even reached a point where I did not like my kids very much. How could I? I didn't even like myself. I recall several events where people boldly gave us parenting advice without us asking. They told us, "What you need to do is...." They made comments about their own parenting style and abilities that made me feel lower than low. Looking back it probably was more my frame of mind than their intent-but the hurt still hurt the same.
I would have to confess that I am only emerging from that dark place in the last few years and it has been very hard to shake the feelings of inadequacy. My comfort comes from knowing that I am the parent God meant for my kids to have. Two of my best mentors were fellow homeschoolers-Steph. S. and Karri B. Steph S. taught me that there is no condemnation in the Lord. We are to accept ourselves as his children-the way he made us. Karri B. taught me that we each get to decide our own rules for ourselves and our family. They were so impactful in my life and then they both moved to Texas-I was devastated and had to go visit them...to cling to them a bit longer. In many ways, I was so broken during that trip. I had a meltdown while visiting Summer and also Stephanie. They loved me through it with no judgement and it was good.
It was only in that brokenness and the influence of good Texan friends that I began to rise out of the ashes. He has a plan for my growth as well as the growth of my children and when I look back over my mommydom, I can definitely see a loving mom who is improving. I choose my mentors very carefully these days. I don't judge my worst against the best of others. I don't believe there is a 'normal' family. I don't believe any one's life is ever as perfect as it looks from the outside. I also have slowly but surely weeded out that need to compete with a heartfelt need to be mentored and even do a little mentoring. I no longer feel like parenting is black and white/good or bad. I no longer feel like I have to follow the same rules that everyone else does. I no longer feel like I have to keep a playbook that changes according to the latest advice I have been given. I have come to realize that sometimes the advice someone I respect with great children is NOT RIGHT for my family. I have come to realize that some people who think they have awesome children have blinders on. I have also come to know people who declare themselves failures at parenting who have awesome children that are a joy to know.
Do I have perfect children? No. Do my children have perfect parents? No. Not even close on either one. However, my children know we aren't perfect, we embrace our imperfections and quirks. We embrace their imperfections and quirks. Parenting is the hardest job in the world. We are all gonna make mistakes-sometimes big ones, that is LIFE! Finally though, I have enough prayer and God-time in my life to feel like I can do it. I treat my children like people instead of animals I have trained. No, they don't do cool tricks to impress people. No one is beating down my door to brag on my awesomely behaved children and beg for parenting tips. I don't have any parenting tips to share with anyone EXCEPT, love your children as you LOVE YOURSELF. Loving yourself has to be first. (insert serenity prayer here) No one else can ever love your kids like you can. They won't crave love from anyone else but you. Does this mean give them everything they want and never say no? Of course not, but it does mean to give them YOU. A good strong healthy YOU.
My new plan- keep me strong, love God, love myself, love my husband and love my kids. AND HOLD ON, it is a roller coaster most of the time.