As I sit down to write, neither of my children are napping. That wouldn't be a big deal if it weren't, you know, nap time. The toddler is telling the baby that if she drops her baby doll out of her crib, the toddler isn't picking it up for the baby. The baby dropped the baby doll and is now asking for it back, increasingly frustrated that the toddler is actually sticking to her word. It might be a hilarious exchange if it hadn't taken 45+ minutes every day last week to cajole them into actually napping, which brings me to exactly what I've been reflecting on so much since Lent started: I feel like I'm failing at motherhood. I'm the best at beating myself up for all of the ways that I'm doing it wrong: less than organic snacks, poorly planned and oddly put together meals (one night they had leftover pancakes, pees, and slices of American cheese for dinner), how I eventually snap at my toddler because I can only handle 42,375 "why" questions in a day and that 42,376th one drives me over the edge, and a million other things I could list but will save for some other day. It isn't just the little stuff I beat myself up over, either. You aren't good enough to be their mom. You aren't holy enough. You'll never get them to Heaven. You aren't raising saints. It is wicked stuff in my head, I tell you, downright wicked. I recently watched a video in which a mom asked other moms to look at a picture of their childhood selves and tell the picture of their childhood self all of the negative things they say to themselves on a nearly daily basis. Gut check! I can't look at a picture of me at five years old and tell that little girl that she isn't holy enough, that she's a bad mom. So why do I continue saying those things to myself at this age? If it were all in an effort of self-improvement that might be one thing, but it isn't. It isn't to keep myself humble, either. Truth be told, those negative things I tell myself don't serve any useful purpose whatsoever. They keep me negative and cranky, always aware at how much I have to do, how weak I am, and what a failure I am at my own vocation. So no more. Failure doesn't have to be a bad thing, instead it can be an opportunity to learn, to grow. I may not be 100% better than I was yesterday, but I can strive to be 1% better than yesterday, right? A manageable amount, that I can do. Day by day, 1% improvements go a long way. Instead of thinking of all the ways I'm failing (and, y'all, it gets ugly - I imagine Mary sitting in the corner of my house watching me snap at my kids or feed them weird meals and she's totally judging me, silently telling me that I'll never be the mother she was and is), I'm striving to see each shortcoming as a place to grow. So they ate leftover pancakes and pees for dinner? They ate! Tomorrow I can plan a little more. And if they eat the same thing again? They still ate! Instead of beating myself up as I imagine Mary judging me, I'll invite her in. Mama Mary, how would you have handled this? How do you want me to mother this toddler who has a never, ever, ever ending stream of questions? Mary wants to teach and she's not ever actually judging me. Enough with the negativity in motherhood. It is hard enough without us constantly beating ourselves up. Join in me in trying to be more positive, in cutting ourselves just a tiny bit of slack, and in striving to grow each day, even if it is only 1% better than the day before? After all, I'd rather my kids see me trying than learn a negative, self-deprecating voice from their own mother. Now I'm off to go pick up the things that the baby threw out of her crib and convince her that naps are a gift from God. Rather than beat myself up about how long naps take to actually occur, I'm going to count it as a win that she isn't screaming, nor is there bitterness in my heart, plus the toddler is singing to the baby to try and get her to sleep. Mother Mary, show me how to mother like you do.
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