Is it just me, or does it feel like the Internet is currently inundated with conflicting advice regarding motherhood? Here are just a few examples I've come across in the last week:
1). "Tell your kid he's smart!" vs. "Oh, wait! Don't do that, or he'll settle for mediocre and stop trying to push himself to achieve!"
2). "Get off your smart phones! Close up your laptop! Watch your kid pretending to be Spiderman, before he's a college grad and won't fit into that spandex costume anymore!" vs. "Let yourself have time to unwind." and "Look how much we stay connected through the amazing gift of technology."
3). "In Defense of Sharing" vs. "Why I Don't Make My Son Share"
4). "Teaching your child to self-sooth is a precious gift." vs. "If you let your baby cry it out, he's likely to become a serial killer by the time he's 25."
5). "Keep your children away from cell phones, TV, and computers." vs. "The top 10 educational apps for kids"
Sometimes I feel like I'm caught in the crossfire of all these voices who see motherhood/parenthood in terms of black and white. Right and wrong. I start to feel dizzy, while all their words spin around inside my head, and I judge my own parenting against their standards. Most of the time I'm able to sort things out. I have enough sense to remind myself that I'm being ridiculous. I don't even KNOW these people. They don't KNOW my children. Sometimes, though, I err on the side of the nonsensical.
I didn't shine as a parent the last few days, which may be why all the extra parental philosophising seemed especially nauseating.
Everett's top teeth are coming in. Which means he hasn't been sleeping. Which means he has been screaming, instead of sleeping. Which means I haven't been sleeping. Which means I have been grumpy. It's true. I turn into Mrs. Grumpy Pants when I don't get enough shut eye. Just ask my husband; he will not mince words. So, I've been a grumpy mommy the last few days. And I feel pretty bad about that.
Case in point: We had an extremely full day on Saturday, and part of that day was buying plants for our garden. When we were at Lowe's Kaden insisted he had to pull one of those cumbersome, flatbed carts around. Through the garden center. By himself. On a Saturday. And my patience wore a little thin. I'm about 110% positive that by the time that experience ended, all within earshot thought I was a pretty poor excuse for a Mama.
Then we went to church yesterday, which is just a complete joke at this point in our parenting career. We are on the 1:00 schedule right now, which means church starts at 1:00 p.m. and ends at 4:00 p.m. This is right during the time my kids start to feel tired and fall apart. About a quarter of the way through sacrament meeting, Everett started getting fussy, because all he really wants to do is crawl around like a crazy baby. So Chad took him out to the foyer, so he could do that. About half way through sacrament meeting, Kaden started making really loud farm equipment noises, while pushing his tractor magnets across the page of his quiet book. I asked him in a nice, calm voice to stop. He ignored me. I asked him again. He looked at me, and kept doing it. I told him if he did not stop, I would have to take him out. He did it again. So I got to carry him out of sacrament meeting, while he screamed, "I'M SO SORRY, MOMMY! I'LL BE QUIET! I'LL BE QUIET!" and ended up taking him on a 10 minute drive, while he kicked the back of my seat and yelled that he was mad at me, before he would calm down enough to go back into church. It was a pretty awesome Mother's Day.
I had a profound thought the other day while I had a few precious moments of quiet, alone time: Maybe, when I discount my own instincts, and focus instead on all these "expert" opinions of others, I'm actually doing my kids a disservice. Maybe I sometimes too quickly forget that these sweet little boys were sent to me for a specific purpose.
That even when it's hard and I feel like I'm failing, I'm still the most qualified person in the world to be their mom.
When I was pregnant with Everett, I attended a friend's baby shower, and all the guests offered her their best piece of parenting advice. My absolute favorite was my friend Kari's two cents, which was some version of this sentiment: "All a baby needs is love." In a lot of ways, how true that statement is.
I came across some fantastic old family photos this weekend that illustrated this point for me extremely well:
These first couple are from one of my Dad's childhood Christmases. I love everything about this first photo. The sparse tree with the tinsel. My Dad's slippers on the right side of the frame. The wrapping paper strewn across the floor. But my favorite part are the expressions on my grandma and great grandma's faces.
Oh, Dad. That bedhead. I sure wish we had that vintage construction truck for my boys!
I'm pretty sure this is my dad getting his cloth diaper adjusted by Grandma,
before he scurried off into the dirt:
Grandma and Dad:
Three generations of women with my dad (lower right) and two of his siblings, MalaRee and Howard.
Grandma Great with her son, Eldred:
I just couldn't help myself with this one. That's Grandpa stealing a smooch from Grandma. She looks like she was pretty OK with that.
And then I found a couple golden ones from my mom's childhood. Here's my mom, giving an Everett-style kiss to my grandma Joy.
And here's my mom having a "spa day" with her mommy:
My grandmothers are two of the most amazing women I have ever known. They are incredibly different people. And they are both tremendous examples of what it means to be a mother. And you know what's funny? When I think about them as mothers, I don't think about them reading stacks of parenting books and following some magical recipe for perfection in motherhood. I don't know, maybe they did those things. They could have. But I picture them just like I see them in these photos. Just being mommies. And grandmas.
So this year, as a mom, I'm setting a goal to worry a bit less, and to focus on being the mom I'm supposed to be. Mistakes are going to happen; it's part of the process. I'm not going to be perfect. But if love is all a baby really needs, I think my boys are winning in that department. My heart is pretty full of love for these two: