M and I were doing some Christmas shopping last weekend. She was perched at the front of the cart sporting a pink bow and munching on her snack. Objectively speaking, she looked adorable. We perused the aisles looking for what we needed laughing and talking. It was one of those mornings, rather one of those moments, when everything was going right. I pushed her up to the check out counter, and she made eye contact with the cashier.
“She’s adorable,” said the woman checking us out.
“Thank you,” I replied. “She’s just the sweetest thing too.”
“Well, she’s very well-behaved,” said the woman.
And then she said this: “You must be doing a great job.”
I thanked her and then went on my way, but I could not stop thinking about what she said. I also couldn’t help but wonder what she would have thought if we had been having one of those moments in the store that we all have and will continue to have where nothing goes right. You know, those moments when you want to crawl under the shelves and never come out? If she had witnessed one of those moments, then would I still have been doing a “great job?”
My husband and I are good parents. We have consistent routines. We implement limits. We provide logical consequences. We make sure our children eat the right foods and get enough sleep. We are firm, and we are kind. We love our children beyond words. Yet we still have moments we would like to forget. We still have moments where we said the wrong thing, or when we became too frustrated. Some of those moments happened at home, and some have been on display for the general public to witness. We certainly don’t exit those moments feeling like we have done a “great job.”
When it comes down to it, we can’t control what happens after all of those things I just mentioned are in place. Our responsibility is to provide the limits, the consequences, the consistency, and the love. The rest is out of our control in a lot of ways. We can’t control when the behavior deteriorates, but we can control our response. Knowing when to hold, when to redirect, when to leave, or when to be firm is the true test of our “great job-ness.” How we handle the curve balls is really what defines us as parents. Anyone can push a darling 3 year old through the store. That’s hardly the big leagues.
I write a lot here about grace for ourselves and for each other. I think that well-meaning woman’s response struck me because it implied a lack of grace. I just had a feeling that her view of me would have been much different if my child had taken her halo off for the moment. It also placed way too much responsibility on my shoulders, and believe me, I have ENOUGH right now. I am not going to take on whether or not the stars align for a perfect trip to the store. Fortunately, most of the time they do, but even if they don’t, I know with all my heart that I am still doing a “great job.”
Give yourself grace and relieve yourself of some of the responsibility that seems to fit so squarely on most of our shoulders. Without a doubt, you are doing a “great job” whether your children are coloring on the walls or helping you sweep the floors. Keep up the good work.
Find the joy~
PS–I will be taking a holiday break from the blog in order to be more fully present in the joy of this season. I wish all of you so much peace, joy, love, and grace. Thank you for being on this journey with me. See you in 2018!