Monday, 18 November 2013

Facing My Parental Shortcomings

This weekend, my husband and I went to a wedding out of town. We split the kids up, sending the three-year-old to stay at a friend's house while another friend of mine stayed over at our place with the 16-month-old.

We were dancing, drinking and generally having a good time, when we got a text from the family who was taking care of the three-year-old. She was sick and throwing up, and was asking for mommy.

It was late, we'd had a couple of drinks (okay, quite a few drinks), and we were quite far away. Our friends stressed that we shouldn't come home, that she would be fine and they would take care of it. So we finished out the evening, slept over at the hotel and drove home the next morning to find that, after a terrible night, our three-year-old had bounced back to her usual buoyant self.

Here's the shameful thing: part of me felt guilty for not being there for my little girl. But the bigger part of me was relieved that I didn't have to deal with it.

I hate those viruses—the mess, the constant bathing and cleaning, the worry that if one gets it, the other one will surely get it, too. I'm not good at that. And, I realize, there are lots of other tasks that mothers are supposed to excel at that I just don't do all that well.

Now that they're both at daycare and the eldest will go to school next year, I'm constantly worried that one of them will come home with head lice, which would totally freak me out and probably cause me to boil the entire house.

I'm no Betty Crocker. my idea of dinner during the work week is to throw something with some sort of vegetable in it on the kitchen table within half an hour.

I'm not as patient as I should be. I frequently find myself yelling or sighing over behaviour that, if I could look at it objectively, I would classify as just "kids being kids".

And I find it hard to appreciate the daily joys of family life when most days seem like more of the same: work, mealtime, bath time, bedtime, repeat.

I sometimes worry that I'm not doing my kids justice—that they're not getting the mother they really deserve. Because most of the time, they're great kids: cute and smart and interesting. But they can also be challenging and frustrating and exhausting.

I recently read an article in Today's Parent on "surprising parenting strategies that actually work", and it recommended that you make mistakes—lots of them—so that your kids don't feel they have to live up to some unachievable vision of perfection. No problem there...I make mistakes pretty much every day. 

I just hope that when my kids reflect on their childhood, they'll also remember the things I do get right—reading them stories, laughing and being silly with them, giving them plenty of love and cuddles—because that's what really matters. Even if I don't buy organic produce, and they sometimes go to school with their shoes on the wrong feet.

At least, that's what I'm telling myself.

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