Letting go of guilt to teach our little ones something more important
There’s the mom that I am - anxiety, overprotective tendencies, wheelchair, doctors appointments, crutches, required naps and downtime...
Then there’s the mom that I wish I could be - playdates, walks to the park, swimming lessons, tons of energy, family campouts…
I’m all about making things happen, but when it comes to health issues (and lots of things in life!) there’s only so much we can do. Even if we’re bound and determined to give our kids the best childhood ever, life still happens.
Even though I don’t want my little ones to have to be homebound because I am, it’s still not always safe for me to drive. Even though I don’t want them to be deprived of ‘normal’ childhood experiences, I’ve only got so much energy to go around.
Even though I don’t want this for them, this life is what we've got.
While these worries have become far less consuming than they used to be, it’s something I can’t help but come back to every time I feel my kids are missing out on something because of my health issues. And I know I’m not alone in this worry. As moms, we all want to be more, give more, do more when it comes to our kids.
If you’re worried your imperfections are diminishing the magic of your kids’ childhood, here some of my own thoughts and beliefs that are helping me let go of the worry little by little. Maybe they can help you get to your own place of peace too.
This is part of their life learning.
It’s easy to feel like your kids are getting the short end of the stick when reality just doesn't quite measure up to what you envisioned for them and their childhood. But I have to say, as I watch my sweet boy be so aware of others, get a tissue for my tears without me asking for it, stop everything he's doing to give me or someone else a hug when he hears we're sad, I’m reminded that it’s through life’s storms that we truly find our strength - whether we’re 3-years-old or 30. In these moments of seeing my son’s compassion shine through, I understand what God means when He says everything can be for our good. I never thought about small children and their life experiences when I read that scripture in the past. I do now.
God's grace is real.
I know that my best is all I can do and that the grace of God means He makes up for anything I'm lacking. Not just in the next life, but right now. Today while I'm struggling to just make a box of mac and cheese for lunch, today while I have just enough energy to sit next to Shadyn and read books (no playing, no trips to the park, nothing but sitting), today while I feel tired and yucky and my patience is paper thin... His grace is sufficient. Today. It’s impossible for me to fully understand how that really works, but I know it’s truth.
There's still plenty of room for them to just be a kid.
Sending our little guy to preschool was the best thing we ever did! It was SO good for him to be able to spend time outside of our home, away from the stress and be with other kids as well as an adult he feels safe with and cares about him. It was a place he could play and be a 4-year-old with 4-year-old responsibilities. All the camping trips with his dad this summer have been the same way. Time and space for Shadyn to explore, play, run, laugh and just be happy and carefree.
Guilt comes easily since I’m not the one providing these experiences for him, but really, it's healthy for any child to interact with other adults. Don’t you think? And I try really hard to never frame it that way to him - apologizing for not being able to do it or implying that it’s so sad I can’t do it. He and I talk about his fun plans with excitement. We pack and prepare together. He goes and has a blast (while I enjoy every minute of quiet and rest :) Then he comes home and can't wait to tell me all about it. I hope these experiences for him are nothing but positive!
Your sadness doesn't have to be their sadness.
I think I’ll always feel sad about the things I’m missing. Just this week I made arrangements with a few wonderful women in my neighborhood to get Shadyn to and from school (I’m still not driving). I felt so incredibly grateful for such sweet people who are quick and willing to help me with something I can’t do myself. But I also felt so sad not to be the one driving him. I feel like I’m missing a huge first step in his life by having another mom be at his side walking him up to kindergarten on his first day of school. To have another mom waiting to greet him after his new adventures at the ‘big school.’ I feel sad to be missing something I wanted to be there for. And I’ve cried - naturally :)
But feeling sad and feeling guilty are two different things. I’m trying to remember to separate the two. And just as important, I’m keeping my tears to myself. Shadyn doesn’t know any different. In fact, having other people take him places is the norm these days. And he’s nothing but excited for kindergarten. We’ve talked about him getting to ride to school with other kids. To him, it’s just part of this fun, new kindergarten experience. Just because I’m sad, doesn’t mean he needs to be sad.
Challenges are the perfect canvas to teach our kids how to see life with happy eyes.
To be perfectly honest… on my bad days, my goal as a mom is to make it through the day - with food in everyone’s tummies and as few impatient words as possible. Period.
But on all the other days - when the limitations are there but not so consuming - I’ve decided my goal is to help my kids see their life with happy eyes. I want them to know that life is good, safe and happy. Because it is! We have a warm, comfortable house. They have not just one, but two parents who love them… and grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins... They have the opportunity to go to the school, do fun things, and go after their dreams. They have a closetful of toys and treasures, clothes, coats, and shoes that are just their size. And most importantly, they have a Heavenly Father who loves them, is aware of them, and will guide them in their lives always.
I truly believe that mindset and outlook can be taught and learned. I'm far from perfect at it, but I'm making a conscious effort to teach these things to my little ones through our interactions and my own example.
Rather than focusing on the things we're not doing, I want to highlight the happy things we are. Those are the things I want them to remember and talk about when they’re adults. Those are the things I want to sit and reminisce and laugh about 5, 10, 30 years from now.
Loves doesn't require perfection.I don't have to be perfectly healthy, perfectly patient, or perfectly perfect to fill their lives with smiles, hugs, kindness, safety, and comfort. Love is something I can always give, no matter what. And there's really nothing more important to be giving than that.
If anything, I hope that being sick is helping me be a better mom than before (currently, that’s definitely debatable but that’s what I’m shooting for!). It’s interesting that being limited in so many different ways is what has helped distractions fade and left the things that really matter at the forefront. A blessing in disguise, for sure :)
There will always be days when we wish for things to be different. And there will always be days that we question our ability to take on this responsibility called motherhood. And there will always be days when just getting through the day is a total victory - creating happy memories or instilling life lessons aside!
But... you’re a better mama than you think. Every one of us has imperfections and weaknesses. And every mom mothers differently, which means every child has unique childhood experiences. All different childhoods, but good ones.
In moments of panic and doubt, here’s what I try to remember - and hope you will too. Our kids are strong. They are watched over by a loving God. You’re doing you’re best, and that is totally enough. And even with our weaknesses, we as moms, have the biggest influence on the way our little ones see the world and their life. If we see their childhood as a good and happy one, they will too. If we see life as an adventure we’re conquering together, they will too.
If we believe life is good, they will too.