I’m a good mother… but not a perfect one. I always knew I’d be a good mother… but I didn’t think I’d ever be a single one. My daughter is brilliant, beautiful, funny, independent, creative, imaginative, and full of amazing potential… but she is also willful, stubborn, mouthy, bossy, uncompromising, moody, and she talks more than any human has a right to. I love her fiercely and without condition… but there are times when I don’t like her very much.
She was a perfect baby… an easy baby. And that so did not prepare me for raising a willful, stubborn child… and doing it alone to boot. I fully believe motherhood is the most important job I will ever have… but there are times when I think I could happily quit and return to a life where I am responsible for me and only me. Then I come back to reality and I just get on with it.
I realized a while ago that it’s not my job NOT to screw my kid up. That’s inevitable. I’ll do it… maybe not in the ways my parents screwed me up, but in my own special way. No, my job is to give her the tools to rise above and to thrive when I (or anyone else, or the world in general) screws her up. Realizing that took some of the pressure off… the pressure to do it all ‘right’. It allows me to make mistakes.
I try hard to always be open, communicative, honest, understanding, and flexible with her. I believe there has to be a balance between providing a carefree, fun childhood and preparing children to live in the real world so I have rules which are, for the most part, set in stone. She knows them all. And she knows there are consequences for breaking them. Punishment is hard and swift. And every time she gets punished, she says, “I really wish I hadn’t misbehaved.” So she understands that it’s her behavior that caused the punishment and not the fact that I’m a mean mommy. I have high expectations because I believe if I expect a lot, I’ll get a lot. But I also make sure she understands her best will always be good enough for me, no matter the result.
I really do believe in living by example so I admit to her when I’m wrong and I say "I’m sorry" when I screw up. I don’t spank, not because I think it’s morally wrong, but because I can’t logically expect my child to solve problems with her head if I solve them with my hands. I expose her to nature and culture and diversity but I protect her as best as I can from the negative influences of the media, the internet, and society. When I can’t protect her, I explain. Though she knows I date, I don’t introduce her to the men I go out with because I don’t want people floating in and out of her life. But I make sure she knows my close male friends so she realizes you can love men in ways that don’t include romance and you really can count on them to be there for you. I take her camping and on long road trips, just the two of us, so she understands women should be self-sufficient and venture out on their own, unafraid. I teach her that she can’t simply mirror my political, religious, or social views... that she has to find her own way and develop her own opinions. I never let her win because she has to learn to lose with grace. I never tolerate whining or disrespect or lying. Ever.
Am I doing this motherhood thing right? I have no friggin’ idea. There are days when I think I am… and days when I’m sure I’ve got it ALL wrong. Time will tell, I guess. But I do know a few things… I know I’m doing my best. And though I have no illusions about my kid, I know she’s pretty terrific in general. I know she loves me more than anyone else in the world. I know I love her more than life. And whether I’m doing it right or not, I know I’m a good mother.