March 28, 2019

A Love Letter to Myself to Stop Being so Dang Self-Critical.

Set aside your misgivings, Mom, just for a moment.

These negative thoughts only serve to make you unhappy and tired, and rob you of the energy this momentous work requires.

Take a deep, cleansing breath, and as you exhale, I want you to release all of those unhappy comparisons—all of the criticism and perfectionism and crushing self-doubt—and watch them swirl for a bit in the wind before settling gently on the ground beside you.  

Do not fear; they aren’t going anywhere.

With your next breath, I want you to picture your children. Inhale their faces and imagine the sweet smell of their soapy infant scalps, as well as the sour odor of now-adolescent armpits and insoles. You—you!—carried these incredible beings in your body for nine months, taking your vitamins and exercising right up until the last minute, fretting over the odd glass of wine, bottle of hair dye, or wedge of soft cheese. When they were born, you named them and nurtured them at your breast and carried them in your arms and then, when they grew too heavy, in your heart.

This one, your first-born, is now over six feet tall. He’s smart and happy and funny and kind, athletic and curious and hardworking. He knows no enemies. He’s a loyal family member. And he loves you. He’s a 15-year-old boy who loves his mom and texts you to report that he “wasn’t completely terrible” at crew camp today and that yes, despite his tight schedule, he would still like to have dinner with you on Monday.  

Your baby, now almost 13, spent the car ride to school this morning talking about the infinite nature of things and how nothing truly disappears but only changes form. He’s finally enjoying the growth spurt he’s been waiting for, blazing through pant sizes and proudly nursing the faint beginnings of a mustache on his pale upper lip. He loves performing in school musicals, the comedian John Mulaney, and playing Dungeons and Dragons. He’s sweet and bright and chooses fantastic friends, and he adores you. He actually believes he loves you more than you love him.

And you, Mom, helped make these boys who they are. All of your fretting and planning and care and hope has been in the service of these two extraordinary humans. You’ve hugged them, told them “I love you” about a billion times, washed their clothes and their butts, planned vacations, offered advice, and sought out opportunities to expose them to new and enlightening experiences.

You’ve worked your ass off at jobs you hated because it kept you close, kept the boys fed and watered, and provided much-needed stability in the wake of your divorce. You’ve single-mommed it in a lot of ways and on a lot of nights and weekends—juggling work, sleep, exercise, your own marriage and friendships, time with family, commuting, cooking, cleaning, helping with homework, managing the finances, attending school functions, scheduling doctor’s appointments, and never, ever missing a bedtime tuck in (some of which went on forever and made Adam Mansbach’s Go the F**k to Sleep a welcome and reassuring addition to your book collection).

I know you’re uncomfortable tooting your own horn, but every once in awhile I want you to fight the urge to point out the ways in which you have fallen short or failed outright, or to confess the personality characteristics and bad habits you hope your kids outgrow.

Resist the “buts,” fight humility, eschew the sharing of credit, and for once simply allow yourself to acknowledge all of the ways in which you have completely and 100 percent rocked this whole parenting thing.

Because you have.  

author: Allison Banbury

Image: Author's own

Image: Magic in the Moonlight (2014)

Editor: Kelsey Michal

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Elisabeth Wollan May 12, 2019 6:36am

This one made me smile . . . . and remember. I am so incredibly in awe of you.

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Allison Banbury

Allison Banbury, a licensed mental health counselor, works at the University of Delaware’s Center for Counseling and Student Development. In her 27-year career, Allison has worked as an English teacher, dorm parent, school counselor, mindfulness instructor, and dean of students in both public and private school settings, as well as owning her own private practice. She is ecstatically married and the proud (and sometimes frenzied) parent of two sons and two stepsons. Allison enjoys traveling, reading, outings with friends, and spending time outdoors. She has flirted with writing on and off throughout her career, and is hoping Elephant Journal turns out to be a great fit!