Do you know what I want more than anything in the entire world?
I want to do right by these three.
I want to help them grow up into the confident, intelligent, compassionate, empathetic, ambitious, revolutionary women that I know they have inside of them. In other words, I don’t want to mess this up.
And like many other mothers out there, I think my main way of dealing with this desire is to worry.
And then worry again. And then worry some more.
If you can name it, I have worried about it.
Am I giving them enough attention? Am I spoiling them with too much attention?
Have I taken every opportunity to demonstrate compassionate living? Have I taught them to stand up for their own needs as staunchly as they stand up for those of others?
Have I give them enough enriching experiences? Have I failed to give them enough free time to run and explore and be young?
With my oldest, I worried I damaged her because I was not able to nurse. With my younger two, I worried the nursing was hurting their growth.
I regret not knowing about babywearing with my first, and now I worry with my second two that they got too much time in the Moby and not enough on the floor.
In other words, I worry constantly that I’m messing them up. That I’m detracting from their potential. That I’m choosing the wrong actions and the wrong choices, and that I am leading them down the wrong paths.
I worry about my own weaknesses. I worry that my struggles with self-esteem and depression and anxiety will leave a dark spot on their memories. I worry that my difficulties with solitude will leave them unable to handle being alone. I worry that my desire to please others will teach them that this is ideal.
And then I started to look around. I started to pay more attention to the newspapers and magazines and message boards and how invariably, if it is written by or geared towards mothers, hidden deep within the message is the complicit acknowledgment of this worry, of these fears. Some messages are meant to ease these fears, some meant to exaggerate them, and many to commiserate.
In other words, these days it’s as if the great common denomonator among mothers is this worry about whether we are getting it right and if we are going to end up messing up our children.
Of course some people get it terribly wrong. They abuse their children. They neglect their children. They use their children as tools for their own glory.
But, in my opinion, that’s the extreme. The overwhelming majority of us are going to end up with well adjusted, competent, caring, and flawed members of society.
Because our children will not become perfect adults. They will not breeze through childhood and adolescence without making mistakes, and they surely won’t make it to the other side of adulthood without messing up nearly as much as they get it right.
Because they are human. No more. No less. And perhaps one of the most important lessons we can teach them is that we are not perfect. We make mistakes. And the world is not a perfect place.
Our children can learn so much from our strengths. We give them so much of who we are, and because of that, they will flourish. But we will also mess up. Sometimes big time. And from that they will learn resilience and forgiveness and grace.
Our children will become fully developed adults, complete with strengths and weaknesses, and one of the most important gifts we can give them is to show them that this is okay.
So next time I worry about whether or not I’m messing up my children (which will more than likely happen before I even finish this sentence,) I’m going to try to remember that in the world of parenting it’s a bit like the blind leading the blinder. And that for better and for worse, as long as I show them love and attention and an honest investment in their future, things will probably turn out all right. And no amount of worrying is really going to change the outcome.
Amanda Knapp is a stay at home mom to her three little girls. She blogs about parenting, life, and everything in between on her blog, Indisposable Mama.