As a mother of a three and two year old, things tend to get pretty crazy around my house. My children are a perfect mix of sweet and sour. My daughter is brave and opinionated and my son is funny and independent.
Before having them, my husband and I endured 3 losses, and whatever I thought of parenthood then, these are the five things I have learned since.
- Things don’t always go as planned
Becoming a rainbow parent, meant the world to me. I was sure that the fact that I had lost babies, made me uniquely qualified to be a parent, like I was due the role of being a mother. I was 100% wrong. Did I love my children, absolutely! Was I a natural born nurturer, absolutely not!
When I was pregnant with my rainbow baby, I prayed every day for a daughter who was strong, resilient and courageous. I wanted her to be the kind of girl that would set the world on fire while wearing bows and sparkly shoes. What I did not consider, was that these qualities would often put her at odds with the people around her, most of all me. Strong-willed, independent children can at times be slow to follow instructions and tend to challenge authority…A LOT. I would love to say that I appreciated all of the qualities that I prayed for but I struggled with trying to make my daughter into a child who was strong but not with me, spirited but subservient to me. My dreams of having the perfect child came crashing down. She wasn’t perfect but guess what…neither was I. Even though I was the parent, I had to learn to see her as being worthy of my respect and encouragement. We were two individuals navigating new territory. She had never been a toddler before and I had never been a parent of a toddler before. So rather than fight for the position I thought I deserved, I have learned to hold her hand tightly as we both step out into uncharted waters.
2. All parents have difficulty
I enjoy my children but I sometimes feel overwhelmed and ill equipped for parenthood. Before having my children, I thought that if I could just carry a baby to full term I would be completely happy and fulfilled. That all I need was to have the baby in my arms and then I would instantly know what to do. I placed so much emphasis on just having the baby that I gave little thought to how I would parent the baby once she got here. It did not take long for me to realize my error. Parenting is hard and whether we have children with physical and mental disabilities, behavioral issues or our own financial constraints, we all struggle. What we fail to do though, is talk about our struggles. I am not sure where the idea came about that I needed to hide my struggles but somehow I felt that if I felt anything less than happy and in control that I was failing at life. I felt that as a rainbow parent, I didn’t get to complain ‘cause you know...miscarriage. Imagine having a toddler and a new born but trying to act like everything was great…yea it didn’t last very long. My children were a blessing but they were also a new challenge, and like many other parents, I was having a hard time.
3. People will judge you
When my daughter was 2, she would throw terrible tantrums. Not like how all children that age would throw tantrums. These were the type of tantrums that seemed to have no end. She would throw herself on the ground while screaming and flaying about. Worse still was that she had no concern for where she was. So church, the mall or a busy street made no difference to her. In fact, it seemed the more inappropriate the setting, the bigger the meltdown. I tried hard to not let it affect me. I prayed constantly that she would grow out of this phase, I read everything I could on why children have tantrums, I used all the techniques experts swore by, even the “ignore them till they stop” bit. Each time she would have a meltdown, I would feel the judgement of others on me. Even if people weren’t really judging me, I would feel like they were judging me.
The problem with this though, was that it had much more to do with me and my insecurities than with the 2 year old who was throwing the tantrum. Something was happening with my daughter and I was more concerned with who was watching, she was expressing a need and in my
selfishness I could not see it. Instead I believed that I had the dreaded
Time and time again my husband would remind me that she was only two years old and that she herself didn’t understand why she was behaving the way she did. His calmness during these times, made me jealous. I felt that I was not only falling behind other parents but that I was losing in my marriage as well. It took a lot of discussion and prayer but eventually, I was able to see that my husband was not my competition and my toddler was not deliberately hurting me.
I am one now one of those parents who
believes that there is no such thing as a ‘good’ child or ‘naughty’ child. There are only children who face different challenges and need support in different ways. Once I was able to appreciate that my daughter needed support, I began to focus more on her than on the people who may (or may not) be judging me. I have learned that I could not blame her for my feelings nor could I really blame others for (or stop them from having) their opinions about my parenting skills. People are entitled to their opinions but I am responsible for my how I let those opinions affect me and my feelings about my children.
I am a mother with 2 children under 4 and most days I can barely keep it together but I try my best every day. If someone chooses to judge me for that well… let them.
4. Love them anyway
As parents, it is our job to love our children. What that means may differ for each of us and I will not attempt to quantify that. I spent most of my daughter’s 2nd year of life feeling ashamed of her behavior when I should have really been ashamed of my own. I pray that now that my son is in his 2nd year and faces his own trials (and honestly, I think he would be even more of a challenge) that I will be a better version of myself. That I would place them securely in God’s hands and trust Him to do what He has promised. I intend to spend the rest of their life loving them anyway. I may be stressed but I will love them anyway. I may be embarrassed but I will love them. If they struggle, if they fail, if they fly or if they exceed all my expectations, I Will Love Them Anyway.
5. Be kind to yourself
It’s a tough job, with no discernible age
of retirement. You have made a commitment to care for and love another human for the rest of your life. Whether it is your first or fifth child, we are all learning. I would never walk up to another woman and call her a crappy mother but I was mentally attacking my own parenting skills. I am not going to get it right all the time, no one is. It doesn’t matter what positive things my
husband and friends said about me as a parent, I had to change the voice in my
own head. So as I teach my children to
be kind to others and themselves, I will learn to be kind to myself also. Not to make excuses for my failures but to
accept them as part of my journey and as lessons that can be used to help
someone else. Look this is an important job that I have been given, and I am
forever grateful for that, so I will keep trying at it. So the next time you
see me looking a bit frustrated, remind me that the goal is not to be a perfect
parent but to be a present and praying parent.