Monday, January 12, 2015

Parenting: Art, not Science. **

I am not a bad mama. I do have bad moments.

I do not have a bad life. I do have bad days.
Sometimes being a good mama is a day planned with all of the kids' favorite games and pasttimes and sometimes being a good mama is hearing, "mama, watch this," for the 37th time in one hour and saying, "OK" when under your breath you're mumbling, "I really don't want to."

Sometimes being a good mama is the birthday party the whole neighborhood talks about for ages and sometimes it's a candle in a Twinkie and a day of love and hugs.

Sometimes it's french toast and eggs and sometimes it's a granola bar on the way out the door.

Sometimes it's words of wisdom and understanding and sometimes it's walking away instead of shouting.

Sometimes it's PTA president and sometimes it's help with homework after a long shift at work.

Sometimes it's setting the table for your tired child and sometimes it's having them finish their chores even though they're tired.

Sometimes it's notes in the lunch box and sometimes it's lunch.

The other day I was remembering back to when we were a teeny, new, little family of three. Every decision felt so big then. I thought I'd ruin Isaac if I did this wrong or waited too long to do this or did this too early or on and on it went with what I thought I had to do to get it right. As if there were a checklist. As if one bad decision or wrong move would make or break my parenting deal.

A friend from Oklahoma called one day and gave me advice that I didn't really get at the time, but that I understand more and more each day. She said, "Parenting is an art, not a science."

There is not a set of beakers waiting to be filled with just the right ingredients in just the right quantities in just the right order to ensure a successful child experiment. Nope. There is finger paint and pencil and eraser markings. There is clay and crayons and papier mache. And you add a dab of this and a smear of that and along with your child you create a masterpiece. An absolute masterpiece, I tell you. There will be mistakes along the way. (Oh wow, will there be mistakes.) There will be flashes of brilliance. There will be moments so beautiful you will cry. There will be moments so awful you will cry.

And you will need help. From family and friends and nurses and teachers and mentors. And if you're the praying type, you will beg the heavens to give you a sign that these hard decisions will pay off.
And just when you need it you'll get a glimpse. There will be times you're sure you're getting it right. I always feel quite proud of my parenting skills when my kids tell me which National Public Radio show is their favorite. I'm nerdy and pompous like that, I guess. Maybe it's when your kid holds the door open for a stranger or reaches for your hand across the couch during movie night. Maybe it's when they ask for advice or when they talk about the church service in a way that lets you know they were really paying attention. Maybe it's when they show good sportsmanship during a tough loss or when they pray for a sick friend.

You know if you're parenting out of love. You know if you're doing your best. You know the days that are harder than others and the things that trigger your impatience or anger. You know your child's favorite book and how to rub their back just so when they're having trouble sleeping.

And that is enough. The bond formed, the relationship nurtured, the love shared. That is more than enough.

So let's dish ourselves up a heaping scoop of grace, love, and forgiveness. Let's keep plenty for ourselves and let's share it abundantly with those around us.

What glimpses do you get that let you know you're doing a good, no, great, job? 

** Please know that I am talking about a regular day of parenting with its ups and downs, joys and frustrations. When mental illness, abuse, addiction, single, divorced, or widowed parenting, chronic illness, and a host of other very real and very difficult situations are added to parenting, it takes it to a whole new level. If you are going through any of those situations, please know I do not meant to simplify things. And you are a rock star. Like Bon Jovi status.

P.S. I mentioned that I was making a french toast bake and writing a blog post in my mind and got a request for the french toast recipe. So, here you go. Baked Pumpkin Cream Cheese French Toast. Oh yes I did! FYI, I do not make the crumb topping because it's enough like morning cake without it, we do not serve it with syrup for the same reason, and they always eat eggs with it because a morning without ample protein is a tough morning indeed. Enjoy.


  1. Our oldest is also an Isaac. I can remember feeling exactly as you describe here, but over time we've come to realise that parenthood is as much about the journey as the outcome. As long as we're trying to be good parents and getting more things right than wrong, then we ARE good parents. Perfect parenting is for books and social media, and a completely unrealistic expectation. #MondayBlogs

    1. I sometimes get a nice little chuckle thinking about myself as a first time parent compared to a parent of four. Sure there are times I still run around like a chicken with its head cut off, but I also feel much more assured in the fact that we're all going to turn out just fine. With bumps and hiccups and mistakes, bandaids, love, and forgiveness.