We Do Our Best

Being a parent is like riding the freakiest roller coaster ride ever invented. It is exhilarating and terrifying at one and the same time. It is perhaps the most complex of all human relationships. It is a test of wisdom and emotions. It is a role that those of us lucky enough to experience it treasure, but also prompts us to question ourselves. Long after we have launched our children into adulthood we continue to think of them in the middle of the night, hoping that they are warm and happy. Being a parent is a lifelong contract that does not end until the very last breath. 

There is something magical about the first moment of holding a newborn baby. Describing the joy and love of that moment is almost impossible. We remember how it felt decades later. I can still aware of the spiritual connection of my little girls snuggling on my chest, our breaths coming in unison as though we were forever tied together by an invisible bond. The nights of being awakened from my slumbers by their cries were exhausting, but also vividly etched into my most pleasant memories. I remember the closeness that we shared and my determination to be a good and loving mom. 

It was easiest when my daughters were little and totally dependent on me. I seemed to know exactly what to do back then, but as time passed my role became more and more complex. I had to learn when to hover over them and and when to back away. I am certain that I did not always make the best decisions, but I hope that my mistakes did not harm them too much. As a mother I did my best while often feeling anxious that it was not enough. I pray that my girls always realized that my actions, good or bad, were grounded in love. 

The relativity of motherhood is understood by anyone who has raised a child. It is a long and angst filled time while also being as short as a blink and the most joyful time of life. When my daughters reached their teen years they began to push me away, a natural part of development that has happened since the beginning of time. They tested their wings knowing that one day they would have to fly away. It was a sign that I had truly helped them to prepare for the next stage of their lives, but watching them become independent was sometimes terrifying as I imagined all of the negative “what ifs?” I had to concentrate on the positive possibilities even as I knew that the world is filled with pitfalls that they might encounter. 

I recently heard the mother of a teen lament that her days as a mother were drawing to a close. I assured her that there is no such thing as an endpoint to being a parent. We may be watching our grown “babies” from afar but those instincts that helped us to bring them that far are never gone. We stand off stage ready to help and guide them if the occasion comes again. We still lie awake at night hoping and praying that they are doing well. The dynamic of our role in their lives changes only to the extent that we allow them the freedom to fully become themselves. We respect them as adults but we never forget the bond that forever ties our hearts to them. 

My little girls became strong women who have raised their own children. They fully gave of their love and talents in their efforts to be exceptional mothers. Like all of us who have accepted that role they too wonder if they did as well as they had intended to do. They facilitate between the certainty that their devotion to the task of building resilience and goodness in their offspring was enough or too much or too little. It is the fate of all mothers to second guess themselves. it is only with time that each of us learns that every child becomes an adult through a thousands of encounters with many people and random situations. The foundation of character and confidence that mothers build for their offspring cannot insure that they will never be hurt or led astray by others. We can only hope that they will have the fortitude to rebound from the ugliness that they encounter while knowing that we are still ready to stand with them when they need us. 

I am far enough along the journey of being a parent to know that the roles are sometime reversed. My brothers and I cared for our mom when she grew sick and weary. My husband now patiently honors his aging father who sometimes behaves like a surly teenager because he is frightened of relinquishing his position of authority even as he realize that that he can no longer be the independent head of the family that he once was. The concept of a circle of life is real. We care for our babies and one day they care for us. 

We learn from our parents and choose what we think are their most important lessons. In turn we pass down our revised knowledge to our own children hoping that we have made the right choices. If we have managed to send a clear message of our love they will generally turn out to be functioning adults who continue the process. It is the most important job we may have do and the one that will bring us happiness and heartache all at once. Such is life. We do our best and hopefully enjoy the ride.  


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s