I shouldn't feel this way. But I do.
In spite of my best efforts and in spite of all I do. In spite of all I say and all I strive to be. In spite of how many braids I plait, clothes I fold, rides I provide and meals I make. It's there- in spite of everything. In spite of how much I take an interest. In spite of how many emails I have sent concerning them, conversations I have struck up because of them and tears I have shed over them.
I feel it. Anxious that I'm not doing enough.
In spite of the concerts I have attended, piano lessons I have assisted in. Not to mention hockey and skating lessons, soccer and softball fees I have paid. In spite of the board games I have played and the bike rides I have gone on. In spite of all the countless times I have lain in bed at night with them in the dark. In spite of every dose of medication I have administered and days I have taken off work to be home with them.
In spite of the booboos I've kissed and the hands I have held.
In spite of everything.
I still don't always feel I am doing enough.
I sat with Husband on a recent Sunday afternoon on the edge of a bridge- I sat lazily watching a river trout jumping in and out of the water, while minnows swam in a school right underneath our toes. I sat watching the breeze gently rustling the river grass while birds flew gracefully overhead. I sat there in silence. And on that perfectly beautiful autumn afternoon in the beauty of nature and the perfection of a gorgeous sunny day, all I could think in those blissful moments that should have brought me peace and tranquility was how inadequate I felt as a mom.
How "not enough" I was as a parent.
No calling to mind of any of the above list could have really convinced me otherwise in that moment and time. I simply felt that I wasn't doing enough. Wasn't being enough. Wasn't showing enough.
I felt that as a parent, I wasn't enough.
And while it seems I have been succumbing to these feelings more and more lately, I don't always have reasons for why I do this to myself. Why this happens. I know the research. I know what this generation of parenting is characterized by- indulgence and lenience. It is an age of tolerance and low expectations. And I know my own story and personality well- I am an overachiever. A perfectionist. And as usual, somewhere deep in my perfectionist psyche, I am punishing myself for inadequacies that I think are there. That I feel others in my family can see and feel as deeply as can I:
My lack of patience. My quick temper. My exhaustion that affects both my mood and my energy level. My frustration. My intolerance. My tendency to speak without thinking carefully through beforehand. All combining to make me feel shame and despair- and added to that, make me even feel less than "not enough". More like a complete failure.
Since that Sunday, I've been thinking about these feelings. Ruminating about them in my head, if not even a bit out loud with Husband and my mom in casual conversation. And coincidentally, I happened to come across this little blurb from Jen Hatmaker's new book one night as I scanned her blog. Here's what she had to say about her beliefs about parenting:
Only our overly-critical, overly-involved generation could possibly engineer such carefully curated childhood environments and still declare ourselves failures. We are loving, capable mothers reading the room all wrong.
Can I tell you my goal for my kids? That childhood was mostly good. People, I declare "mostly good" a raging success. If I was mostly patient and they were mostly obedient, great. If we were mostly nurturing and they were mostly well-adjusted, super. Every childhood needs a percentage of lame, boring, aggravating, and tedious. Good grief, life is not a Nickelodeon set. They need something to gripe about one day.
Mostly good is later remembered as "loved and safe." I know because I now label my childhood "magical" even though my mom slapped me across the face in 7th grade and never bought me Guess jeans and accidentally left me at church numerous times. Mostly is enough.
You are doing a wonderful job. Parenting is mind-numbingly hard and none of us will be perfect at it and all of us will jack a thousand parts of it, and somehow, against all odds, it will still be enough.
Words like cool water running over a parched tongue.
Because mostly is enough. And it's okay to make a few mistakes along the way. In fact, it's NORMAL.
Not long ago, Daughter and I exchanged a few unpleasant words- primarily coming from my mouth, not hers. And after we got through the ugly, the message that cushioned all that had been said was the fact that we both really did love each other. A lot. I know I sure do, and she tells me the same still, every night.
Sometimes we two human beings have a funny way of showing that love, but it's still there. Through it all. Love is the constant in spite of the bad bits that tend to color our relationship. It's there -- in spite of everything that makes me feel inadequate, in spite of everything that makes me feel not good enough as a parent. And thank heavens for that. Thank heavens that love remains. Although the misunderstandings, frustrations, clashes and head-butting that sometimes occur can tamper with our feelings, we can still carry on. And we can do so with the understanding that love will also carry us all through the good, the bad and the ugly.
Love is and always will be a constant. At least, that is the pledge we've made in this family- that even when the storms roll in, love will remain. Even when the words fly like darts from our mouths, love will be there. Love is and love will be the foundation on which our family life is built upon. And while we might fight (instead of party) like it is 1999, we still love each other through it all. We've committed to that. We've committed to that abiding love.
And that kind of love, while imperfect and frustrating by times, is never mostly enough.