Haha, if my title made you think I had the answer to raising great kids…sorry, I don’t have a magic formula. Actually, it’s probably just about the opposite of what you might be thinking. I am definitely an observer and one of my favorite things to do is to observe people’s relationships with each other. Whether it’s church, play dates, family reunions, or even at the grocery store, I have had lots of opportunities to observe parents and children. I think I used to think there was a certain way to parent that would help your child be the best they could be and then a ton of wrong ways. (Most of these thoughts were before I had kids. I felt like I knew what I wanted to do and of course everything would play out just that way….BOOM! My first child comes and nothing seems to be predictable. Just as I seem to get a handle on things, a different stage hits and BOOM! Again I”m back to square one, changing my philosophy. I think a good description of my parenting life so far would be the song from the Charlie Brown Musical where Sally’s coming up with new philosophy’s to answer all her questions. She goes through quite a few just during the five minute song:
“Oh, yeah? That’s what you think!”
“Why are you telling me?”
“I can’t stand it!”
And some days I feel like I go through my own parenting philosophies just as fast!
I feel like I had a little epiphany the other day that has helped me to see myself, my kids, and others a little better. I came to this realization when I was comparing myself to a friend who I really look up to. I was feeling a little down thinking that I have a lot of work to parent and be more like her, and then I realized that that wasn’t the right thinking at all because I am not Jane, I am Brittany. I have certain attributes and talents that help me to exceed in areas that others do not, and weaknesses that I have where others may succeed. These attributes definitely come out as a parent and how we raise our children. Our strengths and weaknesses don’t make any of us better, just different and how important that is when we are all raising such different children. We can take advantage of the diversity in our friends and family not by comparing ourselves to it, but by encouraging each other to develop and use our talents to lift and strengthen each other. I’m guessing I’m not the only one who questions their parenting decisions and sees other parents who seem to have it all together. “Mommy-guilt” is an all too familiar feeling sometimes when the inner witch seams to some how escape my careful grasp!
Here is an excerpt from a great talk by Elder Dieter F. Uchdorf, an apostle of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, that I believe perfectly sums up how we should think about the “mommy-guilt” that I know each one of us runs into every once in a while (or maybe all the time!):
I want to tell you something that I hope you will take in the right way: God is fully aware that you and I are not perfect.
Let me add: God is also fully aware that the people you think are perfect are not.
And yet we spend so much time and energy comparing ourselves to others—usually comparing our weaknesses to their strengths. This drives us to create expectations for ourselves that are impossible to meet. As a result, we never celebrate our good efforts because they seem to be less than what someone else does.
Everyone has strengths and weaknesses.
It’s wonderful that you have strengths.
And it is part of your mortal experience that you do have weaknesses.
God wants to help us to eventually turn all of our weaknesses into strengths,1 but He knows that this is a long-term goal. It’s OK that you’re not quite there yet. Keep working on it, but stop punishing yourself.
Dear sisters, many of you are endlessly compassionate and patient with the weaknesses of others. Please remember also to be compassionate and patient with yourself.
In the meantime, be thankful for all the small successes in your home, your family relationships, your education and livelihood, your Church participation and personal improvement. Like the forget-me-nots, these successes may seem tiny to you and they may go unnoticed by others, but God notices them and they are not small to Him. If you consider success to be only the most perfect rose or dazzling orchid, you may miss some of life’s sweetest experiences.
As a parent especially, I feel like I am always looking for ways to be better. Although this is good, I want to remember that tons of people end up with amazing kids and they all parent differently! No two are exactly the same! I believe that God sends us our children on purpose. He knows that we are just what they need to grow and of course they are just what we need to grow become more like Him. There are definitely some absolutely WRONG things to do as a parent like hanging them by their toes until they promise to be nice to their siblings or feeding them ice cream for every meal. But, if we try our best to be the best we can be, if we capitalize on our strengths and on those of our children, I know we will be able to accomplish things we may never have imagined and be the kind of parent we’ve always wanted to be…Not someone else, just the best ME!