I have spent a lot of this last week watching the Democratic National Convention. Many of the speakers spoke to my heart and my values, but I found myself moved by a few speeches more than the others.
Last night, my daughter decided she wanted to stay up and watch Hillary Clinton speak. She is seven, and the other night we were discussing what the DNC was, and who the two presidential candidates were. She sat back and said, “I think we should vote for the girl candidate…you know what?! I can’t think of ANY girl presidents…!” That is when my sweet girl had her first realization that, not only has there never been a female president, there have actually been people who think a woman could not get the job done.
I was not a huge Hillary fan, overall…my heart was with another candidate. However, she will get my vote in November. As I had this conversation with my girl, I discussed that being the first “girl” president is really special, but what is even more special is being the kind of president that takes care of people and spreads messages of love and hope–not a hate and superiority.
So, last night, my girl cuddled up on the couch, her head in my lap, and watched Chelsea and Hillary Clinton speak. To my surprise, I found myself tearing up and trying to get a hold of myself as I listened to Chelsea Clinton speak of her mother with pride and love.
I stroked my daughter’s hair and thought, “This is the mother I want to be. The mother who inspires my daughter to think intellectually, with love and confidence. The mother who always puts my children first and makes them always feel heard.”
When I first started this mothering gig, I had lots of elevated ideas of what parenting should look like. (FYI, it was perfect and easy). The reality has been harder and different for me.
I used to apply a lot of undue pressure on myself. I limited TV, sugar, and other unhealthy foods. I bought organic, made my own bread, and cloth diapered the babies. I wore my babies, kept them close at night, never let them cry it out, and believed fiercely in attachment parenting. These things all sound like what we should do–they are, at least, what many mothering groups are subtly telling us “good” moms do.
Yet, I also had anxiety and worry through the roof. Would a scoop of ice cream make my kid addicted to sugar and cause weight problems for her the rest of her life? Did an hour of Sesame Street ruin her brain? Would a weekend away ruin their attachments to me?
When I started school, I suddenly had no choice but to let some of these things go. I was busy–time for baking bread was minimal. Money was tight and organic foods are expensive. My son went to childcare and was introduced to less healthy foods.
I began to realize that parenting is NOT all or nothing. I do not have to do everything perfectly. Do I still wish that my kids were perfect eaters who have never come into contact with food that has pesticides? Of course!! But, there is a certain trade off that I made–a trade off to a more conventional lifestyle, but a more relaxed and healthy mom. I still believe in gentle and loving parenting…but that is about communication and warmth.
Last night, I realized that the kids will not really care or remember if they were cloth diapered or breastfed or fed organic foods. They will remember the amount of time that I have spent playing with them, listening to them, loving them.
I want my children to think back and remember me as a mom who loved them–always. I want them to feel heard. I want to protect them–but I also want them to learn from their own mistakes. I want them to feel responsibility and learn how to empathize with others. In our house, there will never be room for bullies. My children will always be encouraged to consider how their words and actions make others feel and, by contrast, they will also be encouraged to consider why a bully is acting the way he or she is (i.e. is he bullied? is he lonely? is he unloved?). My daughter will learn that it is okay to be bossy and strong and confident. My son will learn that women like that should be valued and that the word “no” will always mean no.
THIS is the type of mother I want to be. I am not perfect…but that is normal. I have some work to do when it comes to spending one on one time with my kiddos. I need to get off my smart phone and play with them, look them in the eyes, and really listen to their stories and imaginations. But, none of this is too late.
It is not about the pressure and being the “perfect” mom. It is about the time and love invested in relationships with the two sweet kids that have captured my heart.