It’s Mother’s Day and I have mixed emotions. Am I parenting the right way?! It’s not a new state of mind for me but this week, parenting has been extra challenging and I have all the mom guilt! Did I handle that right? Should I be more strict? Should I be less strict? Why did I yell again? Should I eliminate all screen time? Should I let him play Fortnite? No one questions my parenting skills more than I do and there is something about Mother’s Day that makes me feel the need to give myself a mothering pep talk and switch that mom guilt to grace.
I recently had lunch with someone whom I consider to be a mentor and he asked me how much of an effect I think I will have on how Max turns out as an adult. From 0% to 100%, what will I be responsible for, both good and bad? I hemmed and hawed, and felt a literal pain in my chest as I tried to pinpoint just how much of an influence my parenting will affect my child’s life. Eventually, I said, without much conviction, “30%”.
There is no way we can know a percentage of influence that we have on our children but often, we parents feel more responsible for outcomes than we should. Knowing that our children aren’t always a reflection of what we are attempting to teach them, we still judge and praise other parents for their children’s behavior again and again. And, we are even more hard on ourselves.
Our children are born with personalities and DNA and most of all, free will and choice to take what we give them and what their environment gives them and make of it what they will. I know this, and yet, mom guilt looms over me everyday!
It’s not a terrible thing to be aware of our shortcomings. The challenge is in the struggle to make sure we are focusing our energies on areas that we can actually impact. To find the balance in parenting so that our percentage of long term influence is as effective as possible. And, to allow ourselves to make mistakes and be imperfect.
So what matters? What are the most important values that we can direct our children towards?
I have decided that the parenting goal that I want to keep refocusing on is a healthy relationship of mutual respect and kindness. In my opinion, a good relationship with your child will cover a multitude of parenting sins.
All of the rules and consequences are not going to mean as much as the love that we heap on our children unconditionally or the kindness and respect that we demonstrate to them on a daily basis. Yes, they need rules and boundaries but they are going to break those rules and push those boundaries. We can exhaust ourselves and get cranky about it, or we can chill out and remember that they are going to be 20 years old before we know it and we want to be the listening ear that they want to talk to and the shoulder that they want to lean on.
There are no easy answers, and very few conclusive ones but on this Mother’s Day, I am reminded of a time that I was agonizing over a decision I had made and my loving grandma said, “Grace yourself!” I have never heard anyone else use the word “Grace” in that manner. She was telling me to cover myself with kindness and love and to be lenient and understanding of my own frailty. Grace is the magic that comes when we forgive ourselves when we don’t feel we deserve it–Parenting requires so much of that.
So, to my fellow parents, and especially all of you mothers on this beautiful Mother’s Day, today I challenge you to grace yourself!