My three year old totters in and out of my bedroom, clutching a brightly colored bike helmet that’s designed to look like a trippy LSD/anime inspired unicorn’s head. She puts it down on the floor in front of me, pets it’s blue-green mane and then ever so softly shushes it before looking up at me. Her sleeping, she tells me.
I nod conspiratorially and put a finger to my lips. Wouldn’t want to wake that creature.
Then, Evaline scoops it back up into her arms and whispers, over and over, I got you, I got you. You’re okay, You’re okay. I got you… The same soft words I say to her when she wakes from a car-nap, confused and distraught. I hold her, and whisper down by the top of her ear, “I got you, you’re okay…” over and over until she soothes.
Evaline walks from the room, humming and rocking the helmet up by her shoulder. I got you…
Watching her go, my heart is swelling. It’s a perfect moment, fitting for my odd little family (weird rainbow unicorn head being cuddled as though it were a baby,) but I’m also just relieved to see my brash and bold girl, be gentle. It’s encouraging to my soul to watch this little one, who crosses her arms so tightly and tells me NO at the top of her lungs, who spends many mornings fending off invisible bad guys while stomping her feet all around the house and cursing them with her magical fingertips, bend her little knees and offer comfort, like a mother.
Not just any mother.
Not some Disneyfied version of a good mother.
She is emulating, me.
And I feel, maybe, a little, tiny, sliver, of pride.
It’s a strange feeling for me, as a mother. Not to say I’m not proud of my children. I am, very much so. But, often, I’m proud of them, and in spite of myself. I sometimes feel lucky that they’re as good as they are, and wonder how is that even possible, when I lose my cool over a jug of spilled orange juice and two bagels with cream cheese that are face down on my kitchen floor?
Lila and Asher argue over a bowl in the kitchen, I hear myself in her caustic tone.
Evaline grumps and grouses when she’s told no. She screams at the universe at the top of her lungs. I see my stubborn self in her.
Alex gets impatient with the dog, or with his siblings. He just can’t understand why no one is doing what they’ve been told and it drives him to throw himself on the couch in despair.
Yeah. I get that. I see myself there.
So why, if it’s so easy to see myself in my children in every negative light, why is it so hard to let myself see the good sometimes too?
Because, you see, in motherhood, we are self-deprecating.
It’s all so much easier to point at our piles of laundry and our day-two-without-a-shower head of hair and smile and raise our half-filled, luke-warm coffee mugs in a toast of togetherness in the mess.
But, hey, sometimes, my kids are pretty great…and rather than shrugging my shoulders and saying the million of things that we say when we want to sidestep the spotlight: “Oh, you’re just seeing him on a good day.” “Oh, he’s so smart, must’ve gotten it from his dad.” “She’s so artistic, I wish I had that talent, must’ve skipped me,” maybe I ought to sometimes acknowledge that we’re doing okay. I’M doing okay. These kids are largely their own people with their own ideas and their own wills, but they are who they are, in part, because of me.
Why is it so hard to take pride in that?
Why isn’t that (more of) a thing?
Mommy-guilt we hear about all the time (and I write about, probably too often) but what about the other end of the spectrum – that rare moment when everything feels just right and we’re – dare I say it aloud – proud of ourselves? Or, at the very least, happy with ourselves?
We’re not doing our kids any favors, in fact, we’re sending mixed messages when we tell them to take pride in their work – but they don’t see us doing the same ourselves. Raising these children is the biggest, hardest, most important job in my life, and so shouldn’t I show my children that I take pride in that, in them, but also in myself too?
And, when I say job, I mean that to the fullest extent. Motherhood is a job. There are days I want to walk out. There are days, I want a career change. I want a vacation. I want to be off the clock at five. But I can’t. And, if you’re a parent, you know what I’m talking about. There are times you want to take this job and…well. But, you’re with me. I can’t go anywhere. You can’t either.
You need moments of joy, of encouragement. In any work that you do, there is satisfaction in a job well done, in feeling that in your heart.
I take pride in other jobs that I have. When I write something that I’m happy with, I don’t sit and think, boy, I’m lucky that those words just turned out so pretty like that. Sheesh, good thing I didn’t mess them up before they became something eloquent and useful.
And in photography, in my job that helps support our family, I take pride in my efforts. Certainly, I share the credit with a perfect sunset sometimes, or a moment that I was, by happenstance, lucky enough to be facing the right direction at the right time, to capture it. But, I do take pride in my work.
So, why not in my mothering too?
Or, maybe even set aside pride for a moment. What about joy?
I know that I could benefit from spending more time smiling over the success of my days, rather than dwelling on every two AM moment, when I’m wide awake and wondering did-I-mess-them-up-for-real-this-time?
Mommy guilt gets it’s power by our willingness to lay down and let it.
So, how about we give pride and joy a little space too? Maybe even equal space.
How about instead of beating ourselves up over the negative, over the times when we see our own failings living out in our children, we are also just as careful to be attuned to the moments when we see glimpses of good things we’ve passed on too?
In a weeks worth of days when I see all of the bad – the yelling, the arguments, the selfishness, the inability to pick up toilet paper rolls or load dishes into the dishwasher – in a weeks worth of days when I feel guilty for all of the ways I am not living out love in a way that teaches my children to do the same – Evaline comes in and loves all over her bike helmet and proves me wrong.
I may fail a thousand more times this week alone, but there is goodness too.
And, I think, it’s good to let yourself see that, to feel the nudge from God that we’re doing okay.
As parents, we praise our children, because we know encouragement is important to their self-esteem, to their growth, to their soul.
So, why should we expect anything less from our heavenly father, who loves us unfailingly and knows the needs of our hearts so well?
It’s a rhetorical question, but I’m just going to spell it out anyway: We shouldn’t.