My kids are growing faster than I would like (and also slower). I’m not eager to be rid of the sweet morning cuddles and adorable mispronounced words, but I could live without helping them use the bathroom all the time. (Seriously.)
I worry that I’m wasting this precious time. I can beat myself up for not grabbing these moments and keeping hold of them, for not being more intentional with these fleeting days of early childhood.
Should we have crafted or cooked more? Will they have enough memories of messy painting parties and standing next to mom in the kitchen? Should I have taken them out more in nature or to parks, or should we have stayed in and snuggled and read books? Should we have prayed more, talked about God more, read devotions and sang worship songs? What will populate their memories of childhood, and will those memories shape them in the way I had intended?
I’m not a Pinterest-perfect mom by any means, and I’m definitely not naturally domestic. I’m loud and awkward and unapologetically sarcastic. I see these tender, nurturing moms and wonder what sweet memories their children will have. I see truly gifted homemakers and wonder what valuable skills their children are learning. I see organized, intentional moms and envy how well prepared their children will be for this world. It’s hard not to compare myself to all of them and feel inadequate, like my kids are missing out.
There seems to be about a million flavors of parenthood. Some co-sleep, some cry it out. Some bottle feed and some breast feed for years and years. Some spank, some don’t. Some schedule everything, some roam free. Some abstain from technology, and some embrace all forms. The list could go on and on. For someone like me, someone who would prefer a guideline outlining the correct way to parent, this endless stream of decisions is exhausting.
What if I’m indulging them too much or not enough? What if I’m too strict or maybe I’m too lax? What if we’re too structured, or are we not structured enough? There are no take-backs, no do-overs, and almost daily opportunities for second guessing and regret. What if I’m totally screwing up all three of these people right now, as we speak? Will I look back years from now and sigh at all the many, many ways I got it wrong?
I hope not. Not because I have any expectation that I’ll figure this parenting thing out tomorrow and never make any mistakes again. I hope that years from now, I’ll recognize all my faults and failures, but also give myself grace and offer myself forgiveness.
Regardless of all the numerous ways I question my parenting, there are a few things I’m absolutely sure of, 5 things I will never regret doing with my kids:
1. Saying “No”
I can get in my head a lot about how much time I should be playing with my kids, how much attention they need, how much my interest in them will impact how they feel about themselves and how they treat others. But honestly? Saying “No, I will not play with you” has turned out to be pretty important. When they ask to do things with me, saying “no” forces them to play with one another, to invent a game of their own, to test their limits and even get in trouble. They make their own choices, even if they are bad sometimes, and learn from those choices. They discover their imagination and make memories with their siblings. “No” is a pretty powerful word in this house when used correctly.
2. Saying “Yes”
I never regret it when I choose “yes.” Yes, I’ll play with you. Yes, I’ll hold you. Yes, I’ll lay with you. Yes, I’ll read to you. As much as “no” forces them to find their own way, “yes” shows them that I want to join them wherever they are going. I’m their cheerleader, their advocate. My interest in their interest lights them up. My willingness to give physical affection and undivided attention speaks volumes. I can say “I love you” all I want, but my “yes” says more than those three other words ever could.
3. Apologizing when I’m wrong
Even at 5 and 3-years-old, I’ve definitely had to apologize to my kids. I’ve yelled when I shouldn’t, been short when I should have been patient, said something I didn’t mean to, reacted out of frustration instead of patience and love. Every time I kneel to apologize, they forgive me so willingly. Every time I learn the blessing of repentance and forgiveness in relationship. Every time they get a chance to see my humanity and learn to love me in spite of it. Mom is hopelessly imperfect and isn’t afraid to admit it, so in the future, you can do the same.
4. Not apologizing when I’m right
On several occasions, my son has asked for an apology from me when he’s gotten in trouble, and I haven’t offered one. “But mom, you yelled at me!” Yes, son. I did. Sometimes there is behavior that warrants raised voices, and mom is not going to apologize for that. If you are in danger or about to hurt someone or need to be stopped immediately, I may yell, and that’s okay.
As important as it is for me to apologize when I’m wrong, I want them to know that an apology isn’t always in order. Just because you are sad doesn’t mean you deserve an apology. Maybe you are sad because you are wrong. Maybe you are sad because you feel convicted. Maybe you are sad because you are the one who should be doing the apologizing. When I call my kids out on their behavior, they don’t always like it, and I’m not going to apologize for that. It’s important that they feel the pain and discomfort of being wrong, and realize when it is THEIR turn to make amends.
5. Praying for them
I know that my prayers are more powerful than anything else I do for or with my kids. Praying with them is the best way of mentoring them in relationship with God. Praying for them is the best way to protect them as they grow. I may get distracted and down on myself. I may feel less than and never enough. I may totally blow it one day and completely nail it the next. No matter the quality or quantity of mothering I do in this life, better and more important than any of it is prayer. Because God is bigger and better than me any day of the week, and His work is bigger and better than anything I could ever do with my kids anyway. Praying He is always with them and for them is something I will never regret, and something I can do long after they have grown and gone, after all the crafts and cookies have faded and crumbled. An eternal gift that won’t ever collect dust or go out of style, so take that, Pinterest.
Marie Osborne is a wife, mom, coffee drinker, loud laugher, & Jesus follower. When she isn't laughing with her husband, texting with her girlfriends, singing with her preschooler, or chasing after her toddler twins, she's probably writing at her blog while binge watching Netflix.