Being a mom is always rewarding but sometimes it can be totally overwhelming too. About a month ago, Savannah dove head first into toddlerhood and I’ve been spinning ever since. It’s not just the physical exhaustion from chasing her around, picking up after her, and riding the cooking meals/cleaning dishes hamster wheel. It’s also the mental exhaustion from worrying about shaping this little human being.
Looking back, the early months, while never easy were filled with questions that had logical answers or at least ones that were easy to locate. Don’t know how much to feed her? Refer to Babycenter or Kellymom websites. Baby not sleeping through the night? Check out one of the 1,000 books written on sleep training. When to introduce solids? The mommy bible: “What to Expect: The First Year” to the rescue.
But now, it’s a whole new can of worms. I am constantly thinking about how our actions today will affect who she becomes tomorrow. Just a few things that keep me up at night include: how to keep her safe from harm while encouraging her curiosity, how to protect her from heartbreak but expose her to just enough to build character, and how to provide her with opportunity and occasional indulgences while simultaneously raising an open-minded, gracious, and generous person.
These are big issues, people!
About six months ago I received some incredible advice from a woman who had two of the most articulate, polite, and loving little boys I’ve ever met. I asked her what I can do now to guarantee that Savannah turns out like them and she said, “It’s less what we do and who we are that matters.” In short, lead by example because they are sponges who are constantly perfecting the art of observation and imitation. While initially relieved that this logical advice meant I didn’t miss some Parenting 101 lesson along the way, as the concept sunk in I realized “Oh crap, the pressure is really on.”
Savannah is a mini version of me and Mike and I don’t just mean genetically. By being raised in our household, she is exposed to everything we say and do on a daily basis. She is learning conflict resolution from our arguments, negotiation tactics from our discussions over household matters, and compassion from how we treat our friends and family when they are in the room (and when they’re not!). Suddenly, all of the mistakes we’ve made (in the last week alone) came rushing back and that feeling of “exhaustion” set in again.
At the end of the day, I just keep reminding myself that if we love her with all our beings – which we do – and we include elements of encouragement, discipline, and adventure to her days – which we do as well – then we’re doing a pretty damn good job. As for being a good example, we may not be perfect parents but we get up every morning and go to work, we provide for our family, support our friends, volunteer our time, and contribute to our community. There’s no doubt we’ll continue to make mistakes along the way but hopefully I’ll learn how to stop agonizing over them and start having a little faith that God would never have assigned us such an important job if we weren’t up to the challenge.
And, when I forget this lesson – which I most certainly will – it’s reassuring to know that her deep, from the gut, laughter will be there to remind me that if a baby is this happy, her parents have got to be doing something right.