I wrote a post a while back about my White Flags. It was a pretty normal post with a pretty normal list of standards I completely fail to meet: nutritional puritanism, mopping, sleep, personal hygiene.
My parenting self-image looks a lot like this: I’m generally a floundering, useless nutball who’s trying, but mostly jacking this mom-thing up. It seems like there is no trying “hard enough.” My kids’ struggles are my fault, because I bequeathed them my crazy DNA or I’ve given them too many artificial colors.
Every additional year of experience has taught me that parenting is a complicated, emotionally-charged, high-stakes job. There are no rules, no doing it “right.” There will only ever be doing the best I can. And seriously, every single time I thought I had something figured out, everything changed.
So, frankly, it was really easy to slap together a self-flagellatory list with some jokes. I have dedicated a lot of mental voltage toward developing the part of my brain that mocks my own short-comings. However, truthfully, parenting is something I value. And it is among my fondest hopes that I’m doing an acceptable job. I have white flags, sure, but I also dedicate real effort to family and parenting. I pour more elbow-grease into this, perhaps, than I have ever dedicated to anything else.
Consequently, it’s much, much harder to identify things I’m…proud of. But I have them, and I’d like to share them with you.
- I give my kids vegetables. I mean, it’s a low standard, but there you have it. I try to present a moderately healthy option to my kids, every meal. Sometimes it’s just carrots or “cucumber cookies,” but it’s there, on their plate. (What they choose to eat? Their problem.)
- We cook and eat dinner together. We’d go broke if we didn’t, and also, I like doing it. My kids help, and we sit around the table, every day. My husband celebrates by begging our rowdy crew to Use. Their. Forks., which is a work in progress. We talk about our days, which are busy and chaotic. We practice listening to each other. We practice talking to each other. Everyone clears their own plates.
- I read to my kids. My childhood memories of reading with my mom and siblings, piled together on her bed, are such wonderful, warm memories. They’re probably part of why I HAD kids. I love reading to them, even if we’ve already blown bedtime. I’m going to keep doing it until they beg me to stop.
- I work out. For me, staying physically active is intimately connected to staying emotionally healthy (ish). I sit at a desk looking at a computer for a huge portion of my waking hours. If I don’t move my body, my brain quickly spirals into an ugly stink-hole of self-loathing. Exercise is my expecto patronum, and if I don’t practice it, I lose it. But it works pretty well! (It’s a harbor seal, I think, but it also might be a squirrel.)
- I keep (kinda) tight reigns on the TV. With a few exceptions, we’re limited to PBS Kids, one show per day, plus Friday Movie Night and Saturday Morning Mom And Dad Sleep In stuff. We don’t really have time for much more.
- I’m really affectionate. I love on my kids every day.
Sharing these seems so strangely intimate and vulnerable, like I’m exposing my values (and I’m TOTALLY OKAY if they’re not your values!) and showing my greatest hope: that I deserve these magical kids. Together, we fill our home with love. Even when we’re struggling, even when our weaknesses overlap and everything seems to be falling apart, we’re the right family for each other.