I recently started taking parenting classes that I found at my local library. It was really insightful and wonderful to be in a classroom again - without grades, tests or homework! I loved the discussions about parenting techniques. In one of the classes a couple of weeks ago, the instructor was teaching us about brain development in children from birth - 5 years. She explained about "critical windows" of your child's development and how if we miss those moments, they are gone forever. She talked about babies crying, nurturing discipline and learning through play. It was all really interesting and I started to take a personal inventory of how many minutes a day I was spending on each thing. I started to feel like my 3 books at bedtime weren't enough. That my carefully selected toys weren't educational enough. Maybe I had let my baby cry too often when he was 6 months old? Maybe I should be making more sensory bins for my toddler and maybe, just maybe, my entire mothering technique was wrong!?
Please don't misunderstand me by thinking that I am saying that by using sensory bins or reading a dozen books in an afternoon to your child, you don't love your children. I'm saying quite the opposite. Of course we love our children by teaching them and guiding them to find knowledge and self-confidence! My job as a mother is to teach, but not just to teach counting and proper grammar. My responsibility as a mother is to teach my children how to be responsible, kind, selfless, loving, smart, curious and faithful. I think the best way to do that is by encouraging my children to learn and follow the teachings of Jesus Christ. By teaching them and by showing them love, I will do just that. I can teach a thousand lessons of modeling colors and shapes, sequencing blocks and sorting fuzzy balls into muffin tins (and those things are good!) but the "best part" is teaching my child how to love. I've said it once and I'll say it again: life is about relationships. I believe so strongly that the example of Jesus' life on the earth taught us that.
“Motherhood is the greatest potential influence either for good or ill in human life. The mother's image is the first that stamps itself on the unwritten page of the young child's mind. It is her caress that first awakens a sense of security; her kiss, the first realization of affection; her sympathy and tenderness, the first assurance that there is love in the world.” - David O. McKay
You better believe that I will keep trying to help with algebra homework I don't understand, read another story when I feel like I don't have time, and be a "mean mom" when it comes to choices and consequences, but I am already doing the most important things. I may not do them perfectly but that is my focus. I think that instead of spending so much time trying to think of interesting lesson plans and stressing about developmental activities for my kids (which I have done in the past), I should be implementing lessons of patience and kindness through the way I am their mother (and yes, you can do both - which, for me, is the ultimate goal). I want to feel less guilt about not doing all the creative activities that I've pinned and feel satisfied by the things that I am doing right.
I guess I'm writing this for myself, since I like to read through my blog books from time to time, but I'm also writing this for my daughters and daughters-in-law. For my friends too and probably also for my future self when my kids are grown and I've forgotten how hard it is to be a mother of young children. I know that we all have mom guilt. We all shame ourselves for snapping at our whining child who asked one too many times for a cookie while we make dinner. We shame ourselves for taking a little too long in the shower to shave our legs and shouting when we see Sharpie on the furniture. We shame ourselves for being a little too brisk in our bedtime routine or being less patient with our screaming toddler than we swore we ever would be before we became a mother ourselves. We sometimes go to bed at night and just cry because we feel like we're failing. I know I do and I know I'm not alone, which gives me a small sense of comfort. What I want for every mother who is trying so hard to be the kind of mother she always dreamed about, is to just keep trying your hardest. Sometimes we succeed and sometimes we fail, but the most important thing is just to love.
Also, this talk... I have a testimony of it.
Also, this talk... I have a testimony of it.