“Right” is completely subjective. Maybe I should say instead, “10 things I don’t completely suck at as a parent.” Yeah…
So this morning was just one of those mornings. The kids and I woke up later than we should have (partial blame to my husband for leaving without waking us up), we had no clean uniforms, couldn’t find their shoes…In fact, one of them actually put on the WRONG uniform as today was PE day and I instead had her in a gently worn regular day uniform. They ate crackers and grapes for breakfast, their hair looked a mess, we left a folder behind, but made it to school with 1 minute to spare.
So of course, my first reaction as I dropped off my obviously ill-prepared children to face the world in this state was “Man, I freakin suck as a parent!” Sure sounds like it huh?
Well, just then I recalled some powerful words shared with me and by me on many occasions by my fellow mom friends – “Take it easy on yourself!” Granted, today was not a clear reflection of how wonderful I am as a parent, but not everyday is like this. There are days my kids go to school looking as pristine as ever, fully prepared for their day, well-fed, and – get this- early! So rather than beat myself up over today, which would be so easy and possibly warranted, I’ve decided to focus on at least 10 things I’m doing right as a parent (in no particular order).
1. I make them happy.
I could say that they are happy because I’m happy. However, even on my worst days, I am sure to take out the time to give them something to smile about. It’s not a materialistic kind of happy, as I try to make sure they never look for “things” to make them happy. They never question how much I love and genuinely enjoy them. There are days I’m fortunate enough to do things like go to lunch with my daughters, or join in on a field trip, or take them on a weekend excursion. But there are also days when that opportunity is not available and I settle for sharing jokes with them, or helping them comb their doll’s hair, or even do a little whip and nae nae to get them laughing (which is also great exercise). Point is, we share at the very least 1 smile per day and they enjoy happy moments with me as their parent.
2. I meet their every basic need.
My kids have nothing but 1st world problems. They have no idea what it feels like to not have the basic needs in life. They are fed, they are clothed, and they have more than adequate shelter. They have comfortable bunk beds to sleep on, despite the fact that they’ve been known to fall asleep on the stairs before. They are safe. Hell, their biggest issue in a day might be that their Kindle app shut down on them. My husband and I have always worked very hard to provide them with all we can and we are proud of that.
Sure, they had crackers and grapes this morning, but it kept them from being hungry.
3. I show them my imperfect self
I’m certainly not perfect, nor do I show them perfection in myself. They see a mom who sometimes faces challenges, but does not let that keep her down. They see me every single day being a parent, a wife, an employee and an entrepreneur! They’ve seen me do these things while getting another degree. They’ve seen me tired, they’ve seen me angry, they’ve seen me sad. What they don’t see is me being defeated, hating the world, or giving up.
4. I sacrifice for them
…As do most parents, but not all. It’s like when my mom used to say during my teenage years (jokingly)”you know I don’t have to love you. There are plenty of parents who don’t love their children.” There are also plenty of parents who put their own needs before their kids’ needs exclusively and to the extent where they put their children in danger. They know without a doubt that they come before anything else in our lives, always!
5. I give them a voice
I grew up in the old school of “Children should be seen and not heard.” My children will never experience that.This was the case mostly with my other family members, but my mother was always the exception. Like she did for me, I encourage them to speak up both in the house and outside of the house. I ask them what’s on their minds, what dreams do they have, what makes them happy and what upsets them. I make sure they know that we trust and believe in them and when they feel the need to speak up against something they feel is wrong, that we will support them.
6. I teach them what it means to be a family
Of course, we try and sometimes fail to eat at the table together for all meals (we get Sundays); as well as some other family activities that my husband’s and my work schedules sometimes prevent us from doing. But, they’ve got one concept down. I always say that while my daughters sometimes fight with each other, they always fight for each other too. I teach them to understand that no matter what, we are a family and a family loves, respects and protects each other at all times.
7. I show them how to treat others
Ugh! I can’t tell you how many settings I’ve been to where I see parents act blatantly rude to people like waiters, maids, or the elderly or handicapped, or other races, or just other humans in general. It’s bad enough to that you wish to live your life as a despicable human being, but to do it in front of your children? What are you teaching them? Humility and respect for others goes a long way as a parent and I’m proud that my children are already learning that.
8. I shield them from negative people
Now, that’s not to say that they don’t come across these people in their day to day lives at school and what not, but I make it a point for these people to not be in their immediate circle of influence. I had a friend of mine say some really hurtful things around my oldest daughter concerning skin complexion. I decided that is not the type of thought process I wanted my child to ever develop and the interaction my daughter has with that friend is limited and monitored.
Likewise, I had a discussion with another friend regarding a little girl who was school friends with her daughter, but would constantly put her child down or hurt her child’s feelings. We were on the same accord in that her child does not need to be friends with someone who cannot respect them.
9. I allow them to fail
The difference between me and my little sister is that I was always raised with this sink or swim attitude. My sister was raised to only swim. I argue with my parents constantly because I feel like they baby her too much. For example, when she was 18, she flew for the first time from Virginia to Atlanta. My mom finagled her way to walking her all the way to the gate, rather than to security. I asked her why would she do that? She replied, “because the airport is confusing and I didn’t want her to get lost and miss her flight.” $@)&@;!!!! Might I note that I was riding a greyhound from New York to DC alone frequently at the age of 15. I reminded my mom that the airport is filled with signs and staff. If she were to get lost and miss her flight, it’s because she either did not pay attention or she did not seek help when she needed it. Either way, that would be a lesson she’d never forget after being forced to sit in the airport for another 2 hours waiting to get on the next plane.
This goes along with the whole perfectionist thing. They are not going to be the very best at everything they do. They will make mistakes. I will help them learn from them. But what I won’t do is to have them fear trying something because they are too afraid to fail.
10. I teach them to love themselves
A while back, I overheard the following bedtime prayer or shall I say “talk with God”: “Dear God. I love my family, I love my friends, I love my teachers, and I love myself. Sure, we still have a ways to go with the logistics of “prayer,” but nothing made me feel more at peace than hearing her say that. I know there will come a time where she hates her hair, or her nose, or her legs, or whatever, but as of right now, she loves herself. Growing up, every time I would complain about something on my body, my mom would reply with a ridiculous, “At least you have a nose. Some people don’t have a nose.” As silly as that was, I got the picture – stop complaining and be thankful for what God has given me.
I show both my girls that I love myself. I don’t put myself down around them. They see me work out constantly, but they don’t hear my body image gripes. They see me struggle some days, but aren’t privy to my “woe is me” rants. We show them that they are beyond worthy of our love and God’s love and therefore, they deserve to love themselves.
I know that as they grow older, this list of things I do right as a parent will grow, shrink or change form, but parenting is a journey. I have to continue to celebrate the small milestones and build upon them. I pray every day that these things will be enough to raise phenomenal, well-adjusted, happy human beings. If not…I’ll just blame it on their daddy. 🙂