Let me tell you how today began. Both of my kids were up and out of their rooms before their lights were green and they were already fighting. I mean, I was actually awakened today by my least favorite sound ON THE PLANET, the aural assault of a yell that my three-year-old launches the instant something makes her mad. I blearily pulled myself out of bed and before my feet ever hit the floor, I heard the tell-tale *Smack-shriek* sequence that let me know that my five-year-old had once again decided to dispense with self-control and smack his sister the instant something made him mad.
I was barely even awake yet and my first feels of the day were the all-too-familiar Failure Feelings that seem to always be lurking, looming and threatening in this season of motherhood. I put them both in their rooms, told them that if they couldn’t keep from fighting they would need to be separated, stumbled to the bathroom and texted my husband that I was seriously considering starting to hunt for a full-time, out-of-the-home job so that I could put them in childcare with someone else who might actually be able to, you know, get through to them.
And while I wasn’t actually serious about looking for another job, in that moment I was stone-cold real about the feeling that we would all be better off if someone else was in charge of my kids during the day because clearly, I wasn’t cutting it. I’ve been throwing the absolute best I can muster at the fighting and the hitting and the yelling and the tempers and *clearly* it wasn’t good enough. *I* wasn’t good enough.
I walked over to the sink to brush away the morning breath and began to plan my next move. What do I do with these kids? Looks like I need to do something differently because what I have been doing is not even a little bit working. What would a Good Enough Mom do with these kids? Someone who was Good Enough at this motherhood thing to be able to get these kids to stop fighting would do ______________________________ right now.
I tried to envision this Good Enough Mom. I tried to get inside her head for a moment, channel her, if you will. Figure out What Would Good Enough Mom Do so that I could follow her ways, even if I could never actually get on her level.
What would it even look like be a Good Enough Mom? What would it feel like to be a Good Enough Mom? How would her kids respond? What would it be like to be around those kids of a mom who always knew the right thing to say or do?
As I thought about who she would be, I thought about what her kids would look like. I’ve been around A LOT of kids in my time. Ten years of classroom teaching and five years of teacher education will do that. I have known some wonderful, WONDERFUL kids. I mean, heck, I had #allthehearteyes for my entire class every single year, even when they drove me crazy. But even the ones who got the “excellent” ratings in the behavior column were not perfect all of the time. They all made mistakes every now and then. They all had areas where they struggled. It’s just part of being a kid- of being human.
There were even times when I would sit in conferences with parents and watch looks of disbelief overtake their faces as I raved about how delightful, cooperative, and conscientious their kids were, and how they really helped me by setting an example for their classmates.
“OUR kid?” they would reply, incredulous. “He must be saving it all for school…”
“Yes, she’s always been like that at school. It’s not like that all the time at home.”
These parents were good, good people and they were raising great, great kids. But even those amazing families and their amazing kids didn’t fit this image I had conjured in my head of this Good Enough Mom who would be able to walk down the hall, cast a spell with just a few words, and have Hansel and Gretel skip off to play, hand in hand, heart in heart, forever and ever to fight again no more.
Something started to stir inside me as I thought and the vice grip that shame and discouragement had on my heart began to loosen. Maybe kids are just human and there is no such thing as a mom who is Good Enough to charm the humanity right out of her kids. I mean heck, I was raised by someone who in my mind is as close to an actual Good Enough Mom as anyone could get and yet I made it to adulthood unable to keep my room clean.
Another thing about kids is that it’s not just a running joke when parents say that our kids find our greatest weaknesses and exploit them. It’s an actual thing that happens as kids grow and test boundaries and explore love and relationships. Even if we did figure out all of the things we are currently struggling with, they would just find something else to push back about because THAT’S HOW THEY LEARN ABOUT LIFE AND THE WORLD.
As I shook the last cobwebs of sleep from my head and prepared to walk down the hall and deal with the ridiculousness that had begun my day, I released the looming specter of the Good Enough Mom and let her flit away from my house. The fact is that God doesn’t make mistakes, if there were anyone better than me to be raising these kids, she would be here right now. Yes, I’m sure there are moms out there who know better than I how to deal with sibling squabbles and quell the impulsivity of reaction- I know this to be true because I’ve read their books and blogs on the subject. But that doesn’t mean she would be better than me at raising the whole people who are my kids
I’m still going to try every day to be better mom because it’s what moms do. I’m going to read #allthebooks, ask #alltheadvice, say #alltheprayers, do #allthethings that might just help me help these little ones become the best versions of who they were created to be. But there is no such thing as the Good Enough Mom. There’s nobody who gets it right all the time, whose kids never push, whose life looks like a constant highlight real.
My prayer is that you will join me in releasing the Good Enough Mom we may envision, and embrace the good enough moms that we are.