A couple of months ago, while sitting in the waiting room at my dentist’s office, Good Morning America was on the television. Kyra Sedgewick and Kevin Bacon were the featured guests, and they were talking about their experiences raising their children. Kyra said something that I thought was pretty powerful.
She stated, “They’re born kind of perfect, you just have to try not to mess them up too much.”
Wow. Isn’t that the truth? But then again – it seems like a lot of pressure and responsibility, doesn’t it? Then I thought, “Oh God, am I messing up my kid?!” And once again the self-doubt settled in.
I never imagined that I would have to transition into parenthood without my husband by my side. That was never the plan. The plan always included him, as far back as I can remember. Then, suddenly, without warning or my consent, the plan changed and I was forced to adjust.
I tend to be too hard on myself and often overlook the remarkable job I’ve done with Mason. We are so blessed to have Vinnie in our lives now, who fills the role of Mason’s Daddy on Earth while Ralf waits in Heaven. Vinnie is doing a tremendous job helping me raise this little man – but what about before Vinnie? I tend to sell myself short and not give myself the credit I deserve. I became a mom while grieving the loss of my husband and high school sweetheart, endured sleepless nights alone, without having my spouse to complain to or yell at in frustration. All things considered, I think most would agree I did pretty darn well.
During Ralf’s final days on life support in the hospital, I promised him that his son would grow up knowing who his father was and that his name would be spoken in our house every single day. And it has. I talk to Mason about Ralf constantly, every chance I get. The other day, after picking him up from school, we saw a firetruck on the road as we were driving home. As always, Mason got very excited.
I said, “Mason, who do we know that was a firefighter?”
“Daddy in Heaven,” he replied, with a huge grin on his face.
Then he proceeded to say something that melted my heart in a way I can’t adequately describe in words.
“He loves me so much.”
My eyes welled up with tears and I nearly had to pull over.
This is one of the proudest mommy moments I have had to date. In that instant, I knew that I had done something right. It confirmed that although it may not always seem like it, Mason really is listening. It reminded me that even when he is throwing his 2-year-old tantrums, defying me as he experiments with boundaries, discovering his independence while simultaneously driving me mad because he won’t accept my help – the important stuff is sticking.
No parent has all the answers. As Jill Churchill said, “There’s no way to be a perfect mother and a million ways to be a good one.”
When you feel less than, when your kids are driving you up a wall and you are at your wit’s end, when it seems like every other mother out there has it all together while you want to fall apart, I want you to remember this: you are doing the best you can, and that is more than enough. Your kids don’t need you to be perfect, they need you to love them and show them how to pick themselves up when they fall. The best way for them to learn that is by watching you.
I will mess up from time to time, but I’m not messing up my kid. I’m teaching him by learning from those mistakes, by acknowledging my faults and apologizing when I am wrong, by showing him that it’s okay to sometimes fail as long as there is a lesson learned.
What lesson have I learned recently?
He is watching. He is listening. Even when I think he isn’t.