I have a real guilt-complex going as a mother.
It’s horrible, I’m aware.
I don’t want to pass onto my daughter my habitual worrying, anxiety or fears that I’m not parenting her well enough. I work every day to relax into this space of not always knowing exactly what to do and loving someone more than I’m completely capable of living up to. I guess I wouldn’t necessarily call it guilt, after all, but maybe something like fear of incompetency.
And I know I am—incompetent. Aren’t we all? Parents never do it perfectly and there are always ways to improve, yet here’s the flip side to that coin: I try like hell to be the best mother that I can be.
At the end of the day is that effort good enough? Who knows. I mean, possibly at the end of the day it is, but after an accumulation of days that will eventually make up my daughter’s life time—well, she’s three, so there’s a lot of “wait and see’s” left.
One thought that keeps me going and that helps me make it through my trials and errors of mommyhood is this: my child is not mine.
Yes, she is mine to care for. She’s mine to love—thank God—and she’s mine to hold and nurture and feed, clothe and bathe. Yet don’t you mistake, for she is not mine.
Children are here on loan. If we’re lucky and put in hard work and lots and lots of love then hopefully our children grow into self-sufficient adults with confidence, grace and resiliency. There will nearly always be hang-ups though and focal points of ruin and issues that we plant as foreign and unwanted seeds into their hearts, minds and lives.
In other words, my daughter will surely dislike me for something, for some period of time. This might vary in duration or level of importance, but all of us find ways to blame our parents, if only briefly in junior high. Still, I believe there’s a greater reason for this.
As we grow into adulthood, it’s imperative that we question our values, morals and boundaries if only to further strengthen and reinforce them.
The child who questions her religion and winds up recognizing that her ancestral faith is to be cherished and lived.
Or, perhaps, the child who grew up verbally abused and vows to not treat his own child this way.
Possibly it’s the little girl who was never hugged and she becomes a rather skittish and fearful adult, until she meets the right soul who she finally feels ready and able to share her giving heart with.
There are so many ways that all of us can look back at our youth and find fault after fault after fault, but there comes a point where we must move forward from this blame if we choose to live as happy, mindful and responsible adults—taking responsibility for the course of our own lives and actions.
So I think to my daughter; to when I should have read to her instead of making that phone call. I think back to how disappointed she looked when I finished sending an email while she tugged angrily at my sleeve. Every day I make decisions that if I had the power to re-do, I would—but I don’t believe in regrets. Regrets are a waste of time. Here’s what I do believe in though:
If later today, I find myself sending an email and I feel a not-so-gentle tug at the cuff of my shirt, I’ll close the two hard, grey pieces of plastic that make up my laptop and hug her instead.
I believe also that I’m meant to make some mistakes, and more for her own lessons than for mine.
She’ll eventually have to learn to deal with anger; with frustration and with disappointment. Of course, I don’t want her to learn these harsh realities from me, but there’s no way that I’ll walk through this challenging journey of parenting without a few mishaps and misdeeds. I wish I could, but I can’t—I’m human.
And my daughter is her own human; on loan—a gift for me to unwrap and appreciate newly each day.
She will move past being my daughter and she will become someone’s best friend and then someone’s lover and maybe one day someone’s partner and another’s mother too—for her to then make her own mistakes and learn through her own experiences.
Because our kids are not ours. No, they are sent to us mysteriously to help shape and mold and form, but ultimately they are not ours—and let us not forget this.
Let us remember always that these rare and wonderful creatures—these children of our hearts—have their own thoughts and feelings and words and hopes and dreams—they are their own people and they are not ours.
Will I do the best that I can to make sure my own small tender person knows how deeply and profoundly she’s cared for? Yes—without a doubt, yes.
Will I be there for her when she falls, fails and has to find a way to return to standing? I’ll be right there, by her side.
And will I forget when she’s 18 and living in my house and acting like her own adult that I don’t own her? And that she’s not truly mine? I might, for a moment, but I pray that by then my own heart has blossomed enough and is strong enough to let my little bird fly away when she needs to, knowing that she can always come back to my open arms and my ever open heart.
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Ed: Sara Crolick