Advice for Another Mom (That I'm Trying to Listen To)

Mom Moment 11

Sometimes I feel like I don't know what I'm doing, she says. The crease that runs vertically between her eyebrows (the one that's grown more prominent with age, the one that occasionally prompts her kids to ask if she's mad, the one she daydreams about erasing with expensive surgical means) has deepened. Well. It's more like ... sometimes I feel like I'm doing it all wrong.

I don't know if I'm doing right by my kids. I don't know how to help them past their challenges. I don't know if I'm the right person to -- oh, I don't know how to say it. I feel lost and unsure and it's the most important thing in my life and I don't --

Listen. I lean forward, take her by the hand. Pull her knitted, faraway gaze to my own. Listen, I say. Listen to me.

You aren't a failure. It's okay not to be sure about things. We don't always have clear instructions in life -- in fact, we rarely do. It's all about being open to learning and open to sharing and open to listening to your heart, and more often than not, it's about doing the best you can with the little you've got. Do you remember how your grandmother described how she made pies? By guess and by golly, she said. As in, you can read all the recipes in the world, but some things can't be written down. A perfect pie crust is a twisty maze that must be navigated anew each time.

Almost nothing is simple. It's normal to be scared.

What's the most important thing you've learned about parenthood? That it's always changing. And yet, what's the thing you worry about the most? That the way things are now are the way things will be forever.

I love you, but jeez.

You know that young children are a force of nature, always in motion. Always growing and changing, right before your very eyes. This is the curse and the blessing of motherhood: you get to -- you have to -- watch it happen. It's like a time-lapse video, clickclickclickclick and your boys are taller, they're smarter, they're more. They were so small and now they're not and tomorrow they will be something else and this is truthiest truth of all, it's always, always changing.

Your heart will never stop expanding, never stop breaking. A million gladnesses, a million sorrows. You say goodbye to those tiny babies you'll never see again, you catch a glimpse of the strong, beautiful men they will be.

This is all to say that the challenges of today will change. Your sensitive one -- the one who weeps so dramatically over a skinned knee, the one who often melts down instead of facing adversity -- every minute, he is growing away from the boy he is today. For better and for worse, this is the truth. You are listening and talking and thinking about how to help ease his journey, and that's all you can do.

You cannot take away every burden. You cannot erase every hurt.

Your youngest, are you watching him? He is opening like a flower in the morning sun. He was so shy, just a few months ago. You thought he'd be like that forever, even though you knew better. You thought, Oh no, oh no, is this my fault? Look at him now. Things have already changed.

Your secret fear is that the darkest thoughts you have about yourself will live inside your children. That they will look at you and see a failure. That they will see weakness and bad choices, a fuckup who is unworthy of love.

This may in fact happen someday. I can't predict the future, and teenagers are known to be awful. (Do you remember how you were?) But my guess is that they will respect your honesty, and they will eventually understand how hard you worked for the happy life you made for yourself.

Most importantly, they will know how much you love them. You are changing the cycle. You are giving them a more loving, more affectionate, more open childhood than you had. It's okay that you don't always feel sure in your actions. It's okay that it isn't easy.

You are a good mom. Do you hear me? You are a good mother.

(We look at each other. Mirrored. Can't you tell this to yourself? she asks, gently.)

(No. No, I can't. I can write it down in a rattling rush of keystrokes, hit publish so it's real and forever, and try like hell to believe it, though.)

Do you ever find that you're easier on other moms than you are on yourself?


Image via Linda Sharps

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nicol... nicoleeolee

You made me cry. My sensitive boy is growing up before my eyes! Great article, thank you. And yes, there are numerous times I talk with other moms and I know I'm much easier on them than myself - for some reason we expect perfection out of ourselves, I suppose, because being a mother is such an incredibly important job.

Livin... LivinBlessed

I'm crying, and I'm so glad that I read that... I'm trying so hard to teach these little people how to be someone that I never was, and giving them the love and acceptance never given to me-and trying to keep them away from anything that could hurt them the way that I've been hurt... It's terrifying and I feel like I'm failing constantly. Thanks for sharing, it's nice to know I'm not alone:)

kjbug... kjbugsmom1517

I too am in tears ha..... this came at a time where i do feel lost and confused and i just dont get "it". Trying depserately to keep away the hurts and the embarrassments and the trials. But at the same time build independence and responsibility and confidence. Mothering is so fucking hard. I wish i could go back and be not so hard on my own mom. I broke her heart to many times and my girls r doing the same thing. Except they still see alittle bit of perfection. I always saw a fuck up in my mom. But now in my wiser mothering eyes i see a very strong woman who tried her best with what she had. I hope my girls will someday see how hard im trying with what i have that will be the ultimate payoff.

jalaz77 jalaz77

Oh for sure. I am extremely hard on myself. Even more so lately.

SKDMo... SKDMom1020

I am crying too!  It makes me to want to leave work right now, go get my 2 boys out of school and hug them. I am stuggling right now too.  My kids are 18, 11, and 5.  All going through very different things.  I just went through a divorce and my youngest is testing the limits, my 11 year old is in his first year of middle school and seems like a cross between a child and a teenager and my daughter is in her first year of college. 

KAV1970 KAV1970

I wish someone would have said this to me when I was a young Mom. Every Mom needs to hear something like this.....

dirti... dirtiekittie

that was beautiful linda, and brought a few tears to my eyes. thank you for hitting that publish button! i think we are definitely harder on ourselves than others, and i think that's what makes moms one tough bunch of cookies. who else can try to bandaid every booboo, make favorite birthday dinners, try to cheer them up when they are sad - and then has to be brave when they realize their little bird is not so little and has to leave the nest now?


nobody has all the answers, nobody received a manual and checklist on the way out of the hospital/adoption center/foster home, but nobody will love your children like you do. it's important to remember that we're still human, and every day we learn a little more, we laugh a little more, maybe we cry a little more - but we love a little more too.

MamaDori MamaDori

I needed to hear that, thank you. My boys are two and four, right now I feel like I dicipline them more than anything else. After reading this, I don't feel like I'm as bad of a mom as I think I am. Again, thank you.

butte... butterflyfreak

Just beautiful, Linda. Thank you. I'm sharing you with my facebook friends, plenty of parents out there who could use the words of encouragement.

butte... butterflyfreak

And I meant to tell you, I love that picture of you and your boys! The little one looks so mischievous, you can't help but wonder what was running through his mind at that exact moment.

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