The pages of my life are turning ever so quickly, and the next chapter is approaching with hasty anticipation. My thoughts are racing but getting me nowhere in this unchartered territory where paths intersect, and decisions impatiently beckon.
Yet I resist, wanting desperately to cling to this season like a lifeline knowing that, too soon, it will only be a memory. Too soon, he will fly away to meet his bright future while I cheer fanatically from the sidelines.
Watching him grow from a difficult child into a gracious young adult has been one of the most fulfilling experiences of my life. But as his time at home draws to a close, daunting questions pepper my thoughts.
What if I haven’t prepared him well enough? What if he gets to college or leaves on a church mission and finds himself lacking in skills that I should have taught him? What if he makes poor choices after he leaves the safety of home because I didn’t arm him with the right tools? What if I didn’t use my time with him wisely?
I have recently realized that these questions and others like them boil down to one monstrous fear that is deeply rooted within my soul:
I feel like I am preparing for the final exam of an 18-year course. In my mind, whether or not I pass will be determined by what my kids decide to do with their lives after they leave home. If they make poor choices, I will fail. Their decisions are and will continue to be a reflection of their upbringing. If they don’t choose well, it might be my fault.
And if I fail at the one thing that I have devoted my life to for the past 18 years, where will that leave me?
Thoughts such as these have a nasty way of clouding my judgment, even though I know that dwelling on them will not erase my past mistakes, which are too numerous to count. When I step back and take an objective look at the situation, which is more difficult than it sounds, it is clear that my kids’ choices do not amount to failure on my part, now or at any point in the future.
Failure in motherhood is characterized by not caring about your children; not trying; walking out when challenges come along, rather than pushing forward onto more stable ground.
Failure does not result from endless hours of rocking, feeding, changing, and patiently walking the floor with a crying baby. I do not see it when playing on the floor with a busy toddler, or in the afternoon walks to the park where you stand and push a swing until your arm aches.
Failure does not look like cooking dinner night after night, only to have your picky child refuse to eat. It does not look like reading the same bedtime story over and over and over again until you know every word by heart, followed by butterfly kisses, snuggles, and lullabies before tired eyes succumb to a welcoming sleep.
When I think of failure, I do not think of selflessly wiping a fevered brow and cleaning up vomit until you cannot see straight. I do not find it when soothing a preschooler after a nightmare or calming a tantrum for the 5oth time in one day.
I do not equate failure with choking back tears while walking your baby to his first day of kindergarten, practicing math facts and spelling words until they are perfect, or making school lunches for the 1000th day in a row. I do not see failure in trips to the library and the museum, or in hosting afternoon playdates, even when it is inconvenient.
Failure in motherhood is not around when drying the tears of a child who was left out, or in the words of affirmation and love after such an episode. It is not there when you cry yourself to sleep knowing that your growing child is hurting and there is little you can do about it.
Failure is not part of teaching a kid to work even when it is easier to do the chores yourself. And I certainly do not see it when taking him to church every week and showing him the difference between right and wrong.
Failure is not what I think of when talking a teen through the emotional roller-coaster of braces, pimples, and awkwardness. It is not part of teaching him to drive when it scares you to death, or in watching him drive to school on his own for the first time, knowing you will not be there if anything goes amiss.
Failing does not look like excitement when your child gets into the college of his dreams, even though it will take him far away from you. It plays no part in stepping back and allowing him to fly away, even when it breaks your heart just a little.
When I see my motherhood from this angle, thoughts of failure slip silently away. I am not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, and there have been times when it seems as if I cannot do anything right. But I show up every single day, even the hard ones. I keep trying, despite a million mistakes. I give my all, although sometimes my offering is meager.
My kids may make stupid, horrible choices at any moment, but that will not mean that I failed. It will only mean that they must learn some things on their own. My flawed yet beautiful motherhood journey will continue to stand as a firm witness that I loved like crazy.
Because of that, I am enough; today and always.
And so are you.
Mothers, may be bond together and continue to press forward, despite our misgivings. And, above all, let us remember that we need not be perfect to be caring, attentive parents who do the best we can with the messy experience of raising children.
Our mistakes may be numerous, but they are overshadowed by the depth of our love. That, my friends, means we will not fail at motherhood. Not today. Not ever.