Every parent feels like they’re making mistakes and messing up. When we crawl into bed, we look over the day as we allow our thoughts to quiet. We can hear our voice when we barked something at one of the kids. We recognize we snapped when we shouldn’t have. A quick and harsh tongue or an eye roll of annoyance at another cup of spilled milk or a mess they made. The hurt look on our child’s face is fresh in our mind when we reacted with words we didn’t really mean. We were tired, our filter was exhausted. We made a mistake and we can’t take it back. Apologize? Yes. Rewind and undo? No.
We all have those days. Hell, we all have those every day … some kind of regret. Some parenting blunder we want to rewind. But we can’t … we can only try to keep that thought fresh into the next days and make an effort to do better.
But as I have made many mistakes, I also think I’ve done a lot right. Cuddling my kids and telling them I love them every day. Playing with them, watching movies and doing little things to let them know how amazing they are. I’ve stuck plenty of notes into their lunch boxes and made their favorite meals. I spent many afternoons in the park having picnics. For all the parenting blunders, I’ve also done a lot right.
Or so I thought.
The other day the Girl and I were snuggled in bed in the morning, looking through Facebook on my phone. We came across this graphic that someone had shared:
Ignoring the fact that the title is redundant which makes me question who decided these were “important things to say to kids,” I thought most of the suggested phrases were decent–positive and affirming. The Girl and I were talking about the list. I was looking at it feeling content that I say most of them, among other supportive comments–confident that, although I’m certainly not perfect, I’m doing alright by framing things positively with my kids.
But as we were talking about this, I found she has apparently seen things differently. She admitted that I do say “I trust you,” but she didn’t think I’ve ever said “You tried and that’s important.” When looking at “You always ” she said I only follow that with things like You always wait until your room’s a disaster and I have to tell you to clean it / complain when I ask you to do chores / leave your stuff all over the house. “You hound us all the time about cleaning and doing jobs.” She doesn’t recall me ever asking “How can I help?” I responded, “I say #6–‘Tell me more’ all the time.” Her answer: “Yeah, but that’s only when we’re in trouble when you’re trying to figure out who did something wrong.”
She wasn’t saying any of this to be mean or contrary. She was just sharing her perception–telling me how things look and feel from her perspective. I had opened the discussion, she was merely participating. And because her comments were sincere, they carried a lot of weight.
Apparently, based on the conversation she and I had, I am negative. I dwell on what my kids don’t do, or what they do wrong. Her perception of me is that I nag about the problems without much recognition of the good. Rather than shine a light on them where they are successful, I have apparently been nitpicking their shortcomings.
This is bothering me. A lot. I’ve always thought of myself as a positive and supportive person–generous and loving. And, although I’ve made plenty of mistakes, I felt like one thing I’ve been doing right is nurturing loving and open relationships with my kids. I recognize that I have flaws, but I hadn’t thought this was one of them.
I have often said parenting is the one thing that never lets you feel like you’re “getting” it. Just as you feel like you’ve got your finger on the pulse of what’s going on with your kids, they change ages and stages and the cycle starts all over again.
From newborn to infant to toddler. Then preschool to grade school to middle school. Puberty and teen years, then pushing into adulthood and independence.
It’s one thing to feel like you’re fumbling through a new stage with your kids, and another altogether to feel like you’re floundering with your entire identity as a parent. I don’t think I’m alone in this, but it still hurts. I still feel raw and vulnerable, and I ache in my core feeling like I’m not the mother I thought I was. I’m not the parent I want to be.
Parenting: just as soon as you feel like you’ve got your feet under you, someone or something comes along and pushes you over.
I’ve been through parenting woes before … feeling like I’ve been punched in my Mother Gut. I know I need to take a deep breath and set my sights on the path I want to take. It’s time to dust off the hurt feelings and bruised ego and take honest stock of what I’ve been doing and what I want to be.
Learn from my mistakes. Say “I’m sorry” when I need to. Forgive myself. Move forward.
And so here I go again.