A week ago a lady in the neighborhood gave me quite the compliment. Before I get to that, here's the setup: She is my visiting teacher, and a few days before she had taken Evan and me for some frozen yogurt. I loaded his little "pack-pack" with toys and snacks and got there a bit early so he could wander around and check the place out. Evan was so good, just sitting and playing happily and sampling my ice cream with gusto. When he wasn't so good, I would talk to him, give him a little one-on-one attention, then give him a new distraction. This wasn't any new territory to me; As a full-time mom I take Evan almost everywhere, so I've got him figured out and know what I'm doing by now. Other than the occasional little outburst, he's happy to be out and about 95 percent of the time.
Anyway, this lady stopped by my house last Saturday. She said how much fun she had and was so impressed with how I handled Evan and how I interacted with him. She said I was "the perfect mom."
What a compliment, and what a claim to live up to! While I was definitely flattered, I don't think it's possible for anyone to be the perfect anything. Yes, I've got this going out thing figured out, and I work really hard with Evan to help him be patient, happy and secure. But when it comes to motherhood as a whole, I'm just like every other mom: I'm figuring it out as I go along.
Now, I do read a lot of parenting articles and a few books, and I pay attention to other moms and how they handle their kids for good ideas (and for bad ideas to stay away from, too). And, I'm lucky that I get to spend a lot of one-on-one time with Evan, figuring him out day by day. But even if there was a Perfect Motherhood Manual, there's just no way you could follow it and have the perfect child or be the perfect mom. That's because every child is different, every mom is different, and every moment of every day is different. It feels like over half of everything we do is adjusting to the circumstances we're given. What may have worked yesterday or even 15 minutes ago may lead us to a big fat failure now. It's all about adapting to the situation at hand and making the most out of what you've got, even if it's not a lot.
For me, that's what makes this life all the more satisfying. It's hard to take much pride in something that comes easily. It's solving problems and working through trouble spots that makes you feel like you've done something great, because you have — you've conquered something that was insurmountable to you before.
Years ago a friend of mine asked me how I succeed at everything I do. I literally laughed in her face. Everything? Hardly! While I've had my share of big victories, I've had many, many heartbreaking (and embarrassing) losses and failures. I've hit rock bottom more than a few times and been so very lost along the way. But the thing is, I never give up. Call it dogged determination, obsessive drive, or just plain stubbornness — I do NOT give up. I may feel like it, and I may say I'm going to, but I don't. Ever.
That's why I think I'm getting good at this motherhood thing. After every day that makes me want to get in my car and drive into the sunset, ne'er to return, I get up the next day and vow to try again. And I do.
Lest you think I'm putting on false modesty about this "perfect mom" business, let me assure you that I am not. Just yesterday I totally lost my cool, yelled at my kid and left him sitting in his bedroom wailing because he was putting up such a fight and would not let me get him dressed. I was so upset I wanted to punch a hole in the wall. It was not one of my prouder moments, and I don't feel good about it. But I do feel good about the fact that I calmed myself down, went back into his room, apologized, and helped him calm down, too. Then we had a little chat about what we can do to feel better when we're mad or sad. I don't know if he understood, but hopefully one day he will. The point is, I made a mistake, but I didn't give up and leave the situation a mess. I tried again.
So, perfect? Nope! Far from it. Determined? Yes. Obsessively, stubbornly determined. But maybe in the end, the result is the same: a happy child and a proud mommy. Which makes it all worth it.
I'm going to leave you with another visual. It's one I did not create, and of a quote that may be old news now thanks to Pinterest. But it got me through some really tough times 10 years ago and it's still powerful whether you've heard it before or not. Enjoy, and remember.