The Best That We Can

As parents we do the best that we can at the time.  I would like to agree with that wholeheartedly, but it’s hard.  There were plenty of times as a young mother that I knew I wasn’t doing my best, that I could have done better, but I was too tired or overwhelmed or frustrated or maybe even lazy.  I admit that I often was a meaner mother than I wish I had been.  Of course, hindsight is twenty-twenty.  It’s easy enough now to say I should have done this or that, been more considerate, yelled less…   I don’t think I was bad enough for my kids to need therapy or write a “Mommy Dearest” book.  At least I hope not.

Maybe at those particular moments in time I was doing the best that I could, considering how tired, overwhelmed, and occasionally frustrated I was.  The lazy times still don’t cut it, but no one’s perfect.  I am nowhere near perfect nor do I try to be.  I have no obsessive qualities concerning cleanliness nor did I push my kids to be child prodigies.  Our home never looked like those in the magazines and I didn’t cook gourmet meals.  I had five kids under the age of eight for a few months there.

I know we shouldn’t compare our kids to other people’s kids, but what else to we have to go on?  As long as mine are somewhere in the middle range, I’m happy.  They may not have received full ride scholarships, but they got their degrees and graduated with honors.  They may not be virtuosos but a few of them play the guitar.  They may not be models, but they could be (ok, maybe that’s just a mother talking.)  They all got through their teens without becoming parents, drug addicts or inmates, so we’re good there.

There were a couple of quotes I remember hearing along the way that helped remind me to use my common sense.  The first one is:  “Kids grow up in spite of their parents.”  I know that there are children who have grown up in deplorable situations or those who have died at the hands of one or both of their parents, so I’m not trying to make lightly of those sad cases.  But for the most part, children grow up to be the person they were meant to be whether they had doting parents or neglectful parents.  Yes, their personalities might be influenced by their parents, but along the way they begin to make choices completely on their own and we as their parents don’t have much say in those choices nor should we.  If we did our job as “good” parents, setting good examples, being the kind of person we would like them to be, then all we can do is sit back and hopefully, enjoy the adults they have become.  And if they make bad choices, they’ll pay the price of those choices.  As parents we want to help them out of any and all scrapes, but sometimes, especially if they keep making ill choices, we have to let them learn from those mistakes.  They have to learn that their choices have consequences and you as a parent can’t make them all right.

The other quote is:  “What’s normal for you may not be what’s normal for me.  There is a wide range of normal.”  That one was a great reminder from the time they were infants all the way to adulthood.  Babies teeth can come in anywhere from 3 months to 14 months.  Six months is the most common age, but anytime within that range is considered normal.  The same is true for everything in life.  People grow and progress at different rates.  Physical and emotional growth varies, too.  A child’s body may be ready for toilet training, but he may not be ready emotionally.  It is more important to realize what is normal for each individual person than to try and fit into someone else’s normal.  It’s good to know what the normal range is so that if your child lies too far outside of it you may want to seek professional guidance, but you as a parent know what is normal for your child better than anyone else.  Trust your instincts; that voice in your head is there for a reason.

Just try to ignore your friend when she’s telling you about how her kid is sleeping through the night, already potty trained, reading early, made the dance team, valedictorian or graduating summa cum laude.  Or have a great comeback like this poster did.  Just be happy for them and know that your kid will make you happy in his own special way whatever that may be.  You’ll be just as proud when he asks you to take off the training wheels, when she recites her first poem, when he holds the cloud up at the back of the stage in the school play, when she makes the winning soccer goal, or when he walks across that high school or college graduation stage.

The best thing you can do for your children is to love them unconditionally.  If they learn that from you, then when they think back to their childhood they’ll love you unconditionally even though you only did the best you could at the time.

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