Engage your imagination for a minute as I depict the scene that unfolded the other night. We were celebrating my MIL’s birthday. After dinner we came back to our house for some homemade apple pie. It was slightly past Turkey-Man and Little-Flower’s bedtime, but I did not want to make them go to bed with Mimi here. I devised a plan. I’d build a fort of chairs and a sheet, bring their blankets and pillows downstairs, and put in a movie of their choice. Win-win-win. They can interact with Mimi, share in desert and rest quietly. However, that is not how it actually unfolded.
I set the chairs up, grabbed the sheet, blankets and pillows from upstairs and went about putting it all together. Little-Flower was quite happy with the idea so she plopped her little body down between the chairs. (And, it’s important for me to clarify when I say “little” I mean little. She weighs a whopping 23 pounds at 2 ½ years old! She’s tiny!) As I am tightening the sheet down on one chair I totally miss what is happening to the other one. A solid wood, pub high chair lands directly on Little-Flower’s face. I felt awful!
Little-Flower is screaming, tears streaming down her face as I rock her back and forth feeling terrible that she is in pain because of something that I had done. In the background I can hear my MIL saying, “It’s okay. Accidents happen!” but in that moment I felt like it might be okay for other people, but this was something I had done to MY daughter.
Then, my memory flashed back to my own childhood. I was about four years old and my mom was vacuuming our bedroom before naptime. One of the things she used to do is to lift the vacuum up in our direction and pretend she was going to sweep us up. We would dissolve into giggles every time. This particular time she lifted the vacuum just a little too close. My mom always left my hair long and the vacuum had caught it, tearing out a section of my hair and leaving a bald patch behind. It never once crossed my mind that this made her a bad mom. Her intention was good. Just like mine was in building a fort.
Isn’t this sometimes how motherhood goes? We set out with great intentions, but the result is not how we envisioned it. It is easy to get trapped by feelings of failure when the outcome lays crying in our lap. As I was holding Little-Flower it was hard to remember that I had set out to do something fun for them. All I could see were the tears.
We cannot judge ourselves solely on the aftermath of our decisions. I would venture to say that most of us are doing the best we can with the resources we have. Every day I get up and intend on being exactly what my children need me to be. I do not plan to do things that I know are going to have a painful outcome, but sometimes it still happens. Do poor results equal a bad mother? Of course, not!
Be gentle with yourself. How would you respond if you were an outsider watching the situation unfold? Would you chastise the mother or show her compassion? Treat yourself as you would treat another woman in that circumstance. The only one criticizing you is that little voice in your head that demands perfection. Silence that voice and give yourself a break! We are all doing the best we can and yes, that includes you!