Parenting: You had me at hello. The minute you laid that firstborn child in my arms the world became a very different place to roam around in. In an instant I was no longer in it just for me. I was in it with this teeny tiny person (albeit my 4 children ranged from 9.1-10.8 pounds, ya: ouch). Somehow this child seemed more valuable to me than all the diamonds the world could produce in one sitting. I’d choose her over anything.
When I became a mother I felt that famous rush of love that hits you like a freight train. And I felt fear. As in deep worry that this person entrusted to me would have to weather some seriously painful storms amidst some blindingly beautiful days. I so badly wanted the odds tipped in her favor. The reality of my utter lack of control over the stories her life would possess scared me to pieces. I often wondered how in the world I could foster a child when I still felt like a perpetual student of life. How could I raise another human being while I myself was still being raised? I remember holding my breath and thinking “Dear God, please don’t let anything happen to this pure thing under my watch and please don’t let me screw this parenting gig up royally. I’m not as strong as I hoped I would be”.
We try so very hard every single day to be the best version of a mother that life can offer them. We try so hard to yell so little, to notice and support the positives, and to play down, but diligently address the negatives. Do I hug them enough? Teach them enough? Laugh with them enough? Affirm them enough? Discipline them enough? Play with them enough (I HATE legos and playdough). Am I too much or not enough is a question that haunts me almost daily.
I think I get it now though. I get very little actually, but what I’ve realized is that ALL of life is equal parts holding on and equal parts letting go. At precisely the same time. Holding on to the hope that you are leaving a beautiful mark in this child and letting go of the fear that you’re basically buying them trips to a therapist one day. Holding on to who I am as a valuable individual while simultaneously letting go of my grand plans for what my life would (could, should) look like. Holding on to the hope that my love for them would be the deepest driver in all my rearing. Letting go of the notion that I can somehow keep them safe from forming their own scars.
I decided recently to just go ahead and assume I’m doing an amazing job. I even started to tell myself this. Like a crazy person I’ve been raising the decibel in my own head to sound more like, “Abbie you are killing it at this parenting thing!” and less of, “you’re screwing them up sister”. Yes, it feels a little awkward, but someday it won’t. Maybe it’s the course of treatment for the injurious self-doubt I’ve been beating myself up with. Maybe this positive self talk is actually a game changer and a laser like focus that will grow fantastic humans in my petri dish of a life with them. Maybe it’s not all that crazy, but a rather genius move on my part. In the land of no guarantees, and “people will be people”, and tricky kids, and evolving marriages, and raging insecurity, maybe we can just choose to err on the side of assuming the best of our own intentions. Maybe we can assume that our hearts are big enough to hold what God has given us. Maybe we are pretty freaking amazing and that is all there is to it. Amazing shows up every day, gets out of bed to clean the puke, washes the laundry, and makes a meal or two. Amazing apologizes when needed, hugs at random and goes to the seven millionth (stupid) school play. Amazing says I love you often enough to where they believe it, hear it and roll their eyes at it. Love washes their raveled little hearts enough to cleanse the muck of the day. Amazing is you and amazing is me showing up with love. That’s all folks. We are pretty much killing it at this parenting gig and if you don’t believe me then just ask the voices inside my head… they know a thing or two.
“If you are not afraid of the voices inside you, you will not fear the critics outside you.” -Natalie Goldberg