It’s a long, arduous road, this parenting gig. There are the tiring years of baby and toddlerhood, when you’re too sleepy to really enjoy it, and then the teen years crash upon you, and suddenly, between the emotional outbursts and vague feelings of alienation, you realize those former years were really pretty great and you grieve that you didn’t take it in more deeply.
And then there are many of you, like me, who are doing the whole gamut at one time and frankly, some days you don’t know which way you’re going. Nursing, changing diapers, teaching 6 year olds to read, trying to decipher your temperamental teen, keeping in touch with your married one, keeping the house in order, being a good wife, maybe even running a home business–all on not enough sleep and without a detailed parenting manual.
And so it is that you may or may not burst into tears watching a movie when a mother snuggles her baby because you suddenly feel that the only time you were ever enough was just in those early weeks when your baby didn’t need anything except for you to be there for him.
Something tells me that is still the most important thing and we try to make it all bigger than it is. We will never be enough for any human being. We weren’t meant to be someone else’s everything. We were meant to give of ourselves, from our strengths, to those around us as they learn to navigate through life. We were meant to be there. And that goes beyond our children. It extends to friends, family, neighbors and the guy on our right and left at any given time.
The single most important thing you will ever do for yourself is to be available for others. It will most determine your “success”, your happiness and your impact on the world.
So now take it back to your children: they don’t need you to be the best crafter or the funniest, or the most intelligent or the coolest mom. They need you to be the mom that’s there–fully there, physically, emotionally and spiritually. They need to know you are a safe place, a helpful place, a rock that doesn’t move, no matter what they do. There to read, to listen, to smile, to really hear what they’re saying, to say “I think you’re important.” To share meals with, to watch as they run and play, to teach them simply by doing your own thing beside them sometimes. To remind them how all our gifts come from God and how life is full of unexpected joy if we look close enough. To be a steady when life is wobbly. To be a comfort when they hurt. To share, to hug, to live beside.
That will be the greatest factor in the health of your relationship with them as they grow up and the kind of adults they become.
And another thing: stop beating yourself up already. Don’t be deceived by the lies you tell yourself about who you are. Though sometimes weak, you are capable. Though sometimes needy, you’re a giver. Though sometimes tired, you can dig deep and find stamina because this job is more than a job. It’s your calling and it’s the one thing worth giving all you’ve got.
So when you don’t know what to do, BE THERE. And you’ll be doing the best thing.
This post originally appeared at Generation Cedar.