Kids Don't Come With Instructions So Give Yourself a Break, Mom

The baby did not come with instructions. I was keenly aware of this fact, looking at the small mound of flesh that vaguely resembled a turtle, laying on my belly in a private room at St. Paul's Hospital. I held him ever so briefly, just long enough to not appear to be a complete sociopath, all the while casually scoping the room for signs a real grown up was going to arrive and claim him. 


Impostor syndrome was in overdrive. Panicked thoughts flooded my tired mind. What if there's some kind of quiz? Like how often do you floss and vacuum and what's the capital of Michigan? I knew I would be sunk (especially about vacuuming, and really, how hard is it?). Alas, there was no quiz, and no responsible adult showed up to claim him, so home we went.

He's 6 now, and every so often I'm struck by nagging doubts. I'm simultaneously excited, overwhelmed and terrified with the knowledge that as I go about the business of living (surviving?), I'm establishing what he will consider to be "normal." Normal is both a setting on the dryer and an intimidating, impossible standard. I wonder what he will think of how he was raised when he's 30 and realizes:

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1. Not every kid ate dinner at the gym childminding twice a week out of Tupperware (a generous categorization of the mishmash of containers used for food preservation in our house).

2. Not every Christmas tree is painstakingly assembled next to a dance pole.

3. Some moms cooked dinner every night and not two weeks worth in one giant binge.

4. Some of those moms even served dinner at an actual table that isn't covered in dance paraphernalia and paperwork that should have been filed ages ago (worst assistant ever).

5. Some kids got matching socks every day.

I wonder if he will look back and if my efforts will be "enough". I wonder if he will remember my obvious and sometimes epic failures.

I wonder if he will remember our ill-fated golfing outing. He was just under a year old, and I stored my clubs in the basket of his stroller. I replaced the clubs a bit too forcefully, dislodging the brakes, sending him and the golf clubs careening towards the ONLY TREE on the entire golf course. His brief life flashing before my eyes. My eyes filled with blinding tears as I rushed to save him from a seemingly certain untimely demise. I cried myself to sleep that night feeling like I was quite possibly the worst mom ever.

Or the time I took him out for a walk and forgot his blanket and it started to get sort of marginally cold-ish and I was so embarrassed to return home with him without a blanket. In the end, I actually bought a new one and left my husband wondering who in the heck had gifted us a Canucks blanket, we don't even watch hockey. Also, the time I killed the plant he gave me (sorry, little buddy, it didn’t stand a chance). So many infractions that form the catalogue entitled "Not a good enough mom."  I think about all those things and hope he remembers the good stuff too.

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I hope he remembers forts in the living room and take out picnics in bed. I hope he realizes all the hours he spent at daycare was me trying to give him the very best life I could. I hope he remembers cookies made from scratch and paper chef hats, aprons and homemade waffles. I hope he realizes that being a single mom is really hard but the greatest thing I have ever done. I hope he remembers climbing the dance pole (and everything!) and the time he got to drive a tractor and the time we went camping "in the wild."

I hope he remembers the time he convinced me to wear a vintage sundress to the grocery store "just because." I hope he remembers story time, "no phone" snuggle time and how I held him on the parent cot for a week when he was in hospital with pneumonia and his iv line couldn’t reach the crib.  

I hope he remembers I tried.

I really do try.

I read parenting books hoping I would be prepared. I really wanted to be good at this mommy thing. The reality is that parenting so far has been more of an apprenticeship with on the job training than anything I could glean from the printed page. The challenges I encounter always seem to be beyond the imagination of most parenting gurus, so I wing it and hope for the best. I've learned aspiring super mom rehab involves Menchies after Zumba while hiding behind Mount Laundry.

This kid didn't come with instructions, but I'm thankful for his sense of humor and reminders that I can't possibly do everything ... and that's okay.

What do you think it means to be a good parent?


Image ©; Sparkly Shoes and Sweat Drops

About the Author: Alison Tedford is a freelance writer from Abbotsford, BC. She is a single mom and eating disorder support group facilitator who records her adventures in parenting, fitness and feminism on SparklyShoes and Sweat Drops. You can follow her on Facebook or on Twitter, @Alliespins. She shared this post with The Stir as part of our tribute to moms for Mother's Day.

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