Having posted 34 Ways I Have Failed as a Mother it only feels fair (to my kids and me) to recognize that there are many ways I’ve succeeded as a mother. This is perhaps even more important than acknowledging my failures because in the typhoon season called adolescence it is easy to forget all the years of things we have done well as parents, and things they have done well as kids.
For instance, both of my children have been successfully potty trained for a number of years now (I know! I’m impressive). They have acquired language (lots of it! Some of it colorful), and know how to safely cross the street. They can put themselves to bed! (No long drawn out bedtime ritual, no popping back out of their rooms.) They know their own address, can find their way back home from all sorts of places, know how to unlock the front door (assuming they haven’t lost the keys, but even if they did they know how to access the lock box with the extra keys). It may seem that I am padding my list with these items but they are important, imagine if they couldn’t do them! Imagine still wiping their bottoms. The cost alone of buying star stickers for the potty reward chart all these years could be a tuition payment.
They can both roast a chicken Thomas Keller-style, make spaghetti sauce from scratch, grill a steak and stuff a turkey. My daughter can make beef stroganoff, my son veal picatta. They can clean a bathroom, clean their clothes, clean out the dishwasher, steam clean the carpet (I didn’t say they do these things willingly, or cheerfully but they know how).
My daughter can drive a car! Sure, she had four lessons with a professional but most of the rest of the time it was me in that car with her teaching her when to slow down versus speed up at a yellow light (me and God, I prayed almost continuously but we got that job done).
My son can change a tire (I’m taking credit for this because I encouraged him to take Auto at school). Years ago he and I assembled a Green Machine from a hundred parts so he knows how to follow directions and use tools. He knows how to tolerate frustration because we spent an hour struggling to figure out why we couldn’t get the wheel on only to figure out we were doing it backwards (that also might have been when he picked up some of that colorful language, so I get to take credit even for that).
They know how to ask for help in a store, and from a teacher. They each have done the family grocery shopping by themselves. They can use debit cards and have savings accounts. They know to save at least 10% of every bit of money that comes in and they know about compounding interest. They know another percentage is for sharing. They know I give money to homeless people because I’d rather be scammed once in a while than walk by someone in need.
They know to always stop at a kids’ lemonade stand, and always buy the Girl Scout cookies. They know how to be kind to many people (not each other, the Arabs and the Israelis could learn how to prolong a conflict from these two).
Then there is an entire list of ways in which my kids are each succeeding as people independent of anything I (or their dad) have done. My part in that success is just noticing what they are doing on their own and not screwing it up by trying to get my grubby hands on the controls. My daughter has a wittiness that catches me by surprise so often, it is sophisticated and hysterical and can make me even laugh at myself. My son asks to go on walks with me and explains deep philosophical theories that just astound me. They both are so creative and curious and every age has made them more fascinating to me.
Although there are many things my kids have each learned on their own, the list of things I taught them is long. Every single thing on my list took time and effort from me (and of course, my husband has his own list, I’m not a single parent, except for baseball season, then I’m most definitely a single parent). If, like the scouts, I had a badge for everything I have taught them over the years my sash would be too heavy to wear. Thinking about this is helpful on the days where my failures are so robustly and continuously pointed out. On the very worst day, when my meal is criticized and my movie selection derided and my need for glasses to read anything on my phone is met with contempt, I can watch one of them come out of the bathroom, the sound of a toilet flushing behind them, and congratulate myself on not being needed in that endeavor at all.