We were sitting at the kitchen table together.
And she said to me, “Mom, I’m doing this premarital counseling exercise, and we have to list places where we think our parents failed or did poorly. I can’t think of anything. I’ve tried, and I just can’t think of anything.”
She said that.
I was shocked.
I said, “What about…
The time I screamed at you and your brother because you were fighting in the bathroom. SCREAMED at you.
The time I was having fun with a friend and forgot to pick you up from first grade. There you were, 40 minutes later, coloring a picture at a table. “I knew you’d come,” the teacher said.
The times I said, “No, not right now,” because I was enjoying a good book.
The time I planned a bowling and pizza party, to help you make friends, and they all turned out to be as shy as you were and nobody but me said anything for two hours.
The time I got your attention across the parking lot in middle school by hollering out your nickname.
The time I laughed at you when you were learning to drive, and you got out of the car without turning it off.
The 567 times I stood in the kitchen at 5:30 and said, Um, I don’t know what we’re going to have for dinner.
The time I childishly gave you the silent treatment for an entire evening because you made me mad.
The time I sent you back to college with a sack full of wet laundry because I forgot to put it in the dryer.
“You and dad have been amazing parents,” she said.
I’m 45, and this firstborn girl of mine gets married in a few months. Why am I just now seeing that my daughter wasn’t keeping track of all those failed attempts at parenting. She was tallying the love.
She was remembering that I went to every game, recital, concert, and awards ceremony.
She was remembering that her dad and I have always enjoyed our marriage.
She was remembering that every time I got a new shirt I always said to her, “You can borrow it if you want to!”
She was remembering that in our house we laugh a lot and hug a lot and say, I love you several times in a day -because Jesus is in our home, and we gave her the gospel and all the goodness and grace that come with it.
All these years, and I never knew I didn’t have to feel like a horrible mom every time I messed up. I was never a horrible mom, just not a perfect one.
So to you, my sister in law with one boy in kindergarten and twin boys in potty training, and to you, my sister-in-law with two in school uniforms and one in diapers: Assess yourself through the eyes of your child who someday is only going to remember the chocolate chip cookies you brought to her room after a hard day of school and who is only going to remember that every single night you sang to him, “You Are My Sunshine.”
You are not a horrible mom, even if you drop an entire bowl of mashed potatoes upside down on the floor, as you’re carrying it to the dinner table.
They forgive us so much, these precious children.
Hug ‘em. Kiss ‘em. That’s success.
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