I remember the days when it was just you like they were only yesterday. But now you start your own adventures, just you, without me.
Do you remember when it was just you, my son?
Do you remember how I gave you all of my hugs? How my eyes watched you always? How I loved only you, my child?
You are my first. You will always be my first. And while you are no longer my only, you are the one who made me a mother. You are the one who changed me forever.
You were my first pregnancy test. You were my first oh-my-goodness-what-the-oh-my-am-I-ready-for-this-holy-cow-I-hope-I-am-because-this-is-so-freaking-amazing-but-oh-shit-what-the-oh-my-okay-this-is-happening-for-real moment. You are the first.
You were the one to give me my first worry as a mother. You were the first to tear my heart open in a way I never knew was possible. I thought I lost you. As quickly as I discovered that I had been gifted a new purpose, I thought that purpose had been cruelly stripped away. I thought I was losing you. I thought you were gone. The doctor on the phone thought so too. So your daddy and I made a late night visit to the emergency room. I was broken. And within a few hours, I saw your tiny heart beat on the screen, and I could breathe again. You were there. You were so tiny, your heart was beating fast, and you were there.
You were the first of my children to hold. I loved you before you were born, but when I held you for the first time, well, that moment was the first. That moment was the first time I discovered how intoxicating the scent of a newborn can be. That moment was the first time I understood how intense motherhood would be and how I would never be the same. That moment, my son, you gave that to me.
Do you remember when it was just you?
Do you remember how I smiled when you said your first word? Do you remember how I clapped when you took your first step? Do you remember how I cried when you got your first big owie?
You are my first. Together we’ve seen so many firsts. And now you are the first to begin your own firsts in the big world outside of our little home.
I will smile, I will clap, and yes, I will cry too when I watch you enter those school doors on Tuesday for the very first time as a kindergartener. We’ve had so many firsts together, but this is the first time when I will not be there to see many of your firsts. This is the first time since leaving my full-time job to be an at-home mother when I will not have one of my children with me during the day. These past two years all of my days have been spent with you and your sister, and for the next few weeks until the baby arrives, it will only be me and your sister at home –without you. It will be a lot quieter; perhaps too quiet. It will be less tiring for me; perhaps not tiring enough. Your sister and I will still have many adventures, but our adventures won’t be the same without you. You were the first to make me want to soak up as many adventures as I could while you were young, while you were only mine, while we had these days before kindergarten and scouts and soccer practice and Sunday school.
Oh, my son. I will smile, I will clap, and yes, I will cry too for so many reasons when you enter those school doors on Tuesday. I will smile because it makes me happy and proud to see you so excited to start school. I will clap when you share your accomplishments with me. And I will cry, maybe not in front of you, when you share how your heart hurts. You are my first, and this is a new first for us. You will experience new firsts on your own, and I will be here for you when you need me. We can smile and clap and cry together, but my son, it’s just you again. You get to do this on your own. You get to do this without me.
I will smile to encourage you that you are ready for this. I will clap to remind you that I am so unbelievably proud and excited for you. And I will cry when you walk toward your teacher and classmates because I will miss you. I will miss sharing so much of each day with you. These past two years as a stay-at-home mom have been a gift. It’s been fulfilling and trying and exhausting and inspiring and full of adventures, and it’s been amazing because you’ve been a part of it all from the very beginning. This journey started with you, and now it’s time to let you start your own journey.
Remember when it was just you and me that moment when you were first placed on my chest? I do like it was just yesterday.
I love you, I’m proud of you, go get ‘em my little Jedi. When you get home I’ll be here to smile with you, clap with you, and cry with you if you need me to. And when I tuck you in at night, please don’t mind if I hold you a little longer and tighter against my chest.
A difficult woman: Some days it’s challenging to swim against the current. Some days the waves of tantrum after tantrum are too heavy.
“I pray for the man who marries you some day,” I mutter under my breath as I witness yet another episode of my 3-year-old daughter kicking and screaming over having to eat the bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios that she had asked to eat with such glee and excitement just 15 minutes ago. I have been awake for less than an hour and already the waves have formed and I can see them rolling in—one after another– far off in the distance.
I take a deep breath and channel my inner Bob Marley. “Rise up this mornin’, smiled with the risin’ sun,” I gently sing while making my coffee.
“Noooooo!” My daughter screams back at me. I continue singing as I wrap both hands around my warm cup of freshly brewed coffee. “Don’t worry about a thing, ‘Cause every little thing gonna be all right.”
“STOP SINGING, MOMMY!” My daughter shouts as she forces her body to slide from her chair to the floor.
My hands grip my cup of coffee tighter. This is just the beginning; the first wave of water brushes sand over my clean, dry feet. Within another 15 minutes, my daughter will calm down and she will let me wipe the tears off of her face. We will hug, she will smile, and she will giggle after her first bite of breakfast saying, “Mmmmmm. I love Honey Nut Cheerios, mommy!”
This is just the beginning, though. The waves are coming; I can see them getting higher. Let’s see how well I can swim against the current today.
These waves are heavy as they crash against my body. I try to plant my feet in the sand and stand strong in the rip current. But some days I lose my footing, and the water carries me farther from shore. The water carries me farther from you.
Oh, child. I love you with all of my heart, but these waves flood my mind from time to time. These waves make simple things so difficult. And I begin to only see the difficulties these waves bring. I begin to focus so intently on keeping my head above water, and I forget that you are trying to swim, too. The waves are crashing against you, too.
“Are you approaching your relationships with love?” Our pastor asks during his sermon this morning. I glance at you, and you are coloring quietly. You look up at me, smile, and point to what you are working on. The waves begin to recede.
Have I forgotten how to approach these waves with love in my heart? Am I letting the waves pull my love under the current? When you change your mind, and refuse to get dressed, and cry because I put your shoes on wrong, do you feel my love receding with these waves? Do you see that I love you? Or do you see the waves, too?
I glance at you again, and you look so calm coloring. Love floods my heart, and I feel the weight of the water pull away from my body.
I lift my feet out of the wet sand, one at a time, and I rinse them off in the calm water. Perhaps you are not the difficult one, my child. Perhaps I’ve been the difficult woman all along.
You read it and hear it everywhere: I don’t feel like I am good enough. I worry that I am not the best mother I can be for my children. How can I be enough?
After making a dozen polite requests with no response from your kids, you break down and shout, “Get your coats on now!” And then it starts. These worries weasel their way into your mind, and you begin to think that you are doing it all wrong.
When you collapse in your bed at night, you replay all of the moments when you lost your patience, or were short with your kids, or felt annoyed after being interrupted with another request, or threw your hands up in the air after witnessing the hundredth tantrum over a pair socks you picked out for your child to wear. And then it continues. The worries slither their way from your mind into your heart, and you begin to believe you are not good enough.
You read it and hear it everywhere: Remember, you are enough, you are good enough, you do enough, and your kids know that you are more than enough.
After these gentle reminders and encouragement from your village, you make a choice to give yourself a fresh start. You tell yourself you will do better. You become more mindful of your responses and the way you speak to your children when they have forgotten to put on their listening caps, or when they have decided that your request to choose an outfit to wear is the most horrific thing you could have possibly asked them to do.
When you collapse in your bed at night, you replay all of the moments when you defeated your impatience and frustration. You thank God for giving you the strength to remain calm, collected, and understanding. You smile when thinking of the moments when your children surprised you with their big hearts. The worries fade and you begin to believe, once again, that you are enough.
And then you lose your slight grasp on Zen and the art of motherhood. Again. And again. And again.
Why is motherhood so cruel?
The moments when we first hold our children, the moments when their belly-laughs fill the room, the moments when they learn to write their names, the moments when they choose to share and do something thoughtful for others—these moments dangle in front of us. We live for these moments, and these moments assure us that we are doing it right. We are enough.
But then your kid throws a toy at another kid’s face, your daughter spits at you, your son tells you that you don’t know anything, and your child knocks down a tower another kid had built at the indoor park. These moments dangle in front of us, too. These moments taunt us, reminding us that we have more work to do because whatever we have worked on so far is simply not enough yet.
I read it everywhere. I feel it too. It makes me weary. It breaks my heart.
Does motherhood have to be this cruel?
Why do we constantly try to convince and remind ourselves that we are good enough after a day when motherhood is not all sprinkles on donuts and endless cups of Starbucks? Why do we torture ourselves by replaying the moments in which we feel we had failed earlier in the day? Why do we churn our worries and doubts and fears about all of the ways in which we may not be doing this parenting thing right over and over and over again in our minds?
Oh yeah, our kids.
My worries, fears, and doubts churn over and over again in my mind because all I want in the entire world is what is best for my children. As a parent, I made a vow. I don’t know exactly when I made this vow, but at some point I vowed to spend the rest of my existence loving my children and giving them what they need to believe that they are good enough. I did not make a vow to give them everything they want. I made a vow to give them everything they need. We all have made this vow as parents. This vow has always been there, planted beneath the layers of our souls, and suddenly one day we wake up and realize it has sprouted. The roots of this vow spread throughout our bodies and anchor to our hearts and minds. We are parents, and all we want in the entire world is what is best for our children. We want them to feel loved. We want them to know and believe and trust that they are good enough.
As a child I threw tantrums. I said things to my mother that I now regret. I fought with my sister over who got to sit in the front seat of the car. I broke my curfew once –or maybe twice. Who’s counting? After all of that, I can’t remember one time when my mother made me feel like I was not good enough. Yes, she was disappointed in my behavior at times, and I had to face the consequences for my actions. However, my mother never stopped loving me. She celebrated my accomplishments, she taught me to see the positive side of things, and she encouraged me to not give up. She never made me feel less than good enough.
On the other hand, I do not have the greatest memories of my biological father. From a young age, he could not refrain from reminding me that I was not good enough. He told me I threw the ball like a girl. He laughed at some of my failures. During my sophomore year of college, I attended a funeral and saw my biological father for the first time in two years. When he saw me he told me he was surprised to see that I had gained weight. I weighed 115 pounds. That is what I remember. It has been several years since I have seen or spoken to him, and that is what I remember. It hurts at times. Those memories haunt me as a parent now. I don’t ever want to make my children feel less than good enough. It’s damaging. It’s wrong. It is not what is best for them.
On the other, other hand, I have a wonderful stepfather. He coached my softball team in grade school and high school and never stopped pointing out my good qualities as a softball player. He picked me up from school and from work during high school and asked about my day. He encouraged me to pursue writing. I said I would never be a good writer, but he told me I was already a great writer. Yes, I disappointed him at times, and I had to face consequences for my actions. However, my stepfather never stopped loving me. He never made me feel less than good enough.
My mother and my stepfather did what was best for me. They are my bookends. And that is what I remember most growing up. Those moments with them are the moments I think of when I am faced with challenges. Those are the moments that bring comfort to my soul. Those are the moments that remind me that I am human and I am good enough –not only in my eyes, but in my parents’ eyes as well. That is all I need.
Damn, our parents are always right, aren’t they? I am months away from turning 30 years old, and here I am, admitting that my parents have been right all along.
Motherhood is not cruel. We are cruel. We are too cruel to ourselves. Just ask your mother or father.
I have had enough of trying to convince myself that I am enough. I have had enough of seeing so many other mothers and fathers question whether they are good enough. I have had enough of this cruelty.
My kids are going to throw tantrums. My kids are going to experience their fair share of failures. My kids are going to disappoint me. But I will never stop loving them, I will never stop giving them what they need, and I will never stop reminding them that they are enough. They are more than enough. I will continue to spend the rest of my existence showing my children that they are enough.
Yes, they will face consequences. Yes, I will lose my patience. Yes, we will face our share of differences down the road. But never will I ever make them feel less than good enough. And neither will you because all we want as parents is what is best for our children. And all they need to know is that they are loved, they have our support, and they are good enough. They are so good enough.
See, you are good enough. Deep down you know it and believe it. We are human. We make mistakes. We lose our patience. We get frustrated. We need our space. But this doesn’t stop us from giving our children what they need. This doesn’t stop us from telling our children that we love them. This doesn’t stop us from telling them how proud and lucky we are to be their parents because they are the greatest gifts we could have ever asked for. No. This doesn’t stop us one bit because that vow to spend the rest of our existence showing our children that they are loved and good enough cannot be uprooted. This vow is anchored to our souls.
We are parents. We are aunts and uncles. We are grandparents. We are caregivers.
We are enough.