I had the most amazing/terrible summer. Like every other season of life, it was 50/50: half good, half bad. But it was 50/50 on steroids. Here are some of the things I did this summer:
Had a daughter graduate from college and move across the country.
Had a daughter AND a son graduate from high school.
Had a daughter come home from serving a church mission in Boston and Brazil for 19 months.
Had that daughter move back to college.
And then ... come home from college.
Had another daughter move out and start college.
Had a son leave on a two-year church mission to San Francisco.
Took a two-week trip all over Italy with my husband, kids and my brother's family.
Planned and held a church summer camp for 170 girls and leaders.
Continued to work with my existing clients and signed a few new ones.
Began an advanced certification program in faith-based coaching.
Sat by my father's bedside and held his hand as he began his transition from life to death.
Today though, is a momentous day -- the end of summer. My two remaining kids went back to school, and daughter number two is turning 21. I've had a lot of opportunity in the last few months to look back at my parenting, at my parents' parenting and reflect on the good, the bad, and the ugly, and here's what I want you all to know: you're doing just fine.
A few weeks ago, I was remarking to my oldest daughter that someone was a little bit cranky. And she replied, "To be fair, Mom, when we were little, you were ALWAYS cranky."
"No I wasn't!" I replied, surprised, and a little bit hurt.
"Uh, yes. You were," my daughter said.
I thought about that interaction for a couple of weeks. I didn't think of myself as being a cranky person, but she was right that when she was little I was very strict, frequently overwhelmed, and to her, yes. I'm sure I seemed very cranky.
And as I realized I wasn't the mother I wish I could have been, I had all the emotions. Guilt. Shame. Regret. Sadness.
Then I asked myself a question I ask my clients all the time: So, what if that's true? What if I wasn't always a great mother? What if it's true that I was always cranky?
Can you embrace the parts of yourself and your life that were kind of a hot mess as well as the parts of yourself that are great and wonderful? Because we're all truthfully both of those things. And when you can acknowledge and accept those parts of yourself that aren't all that great, everything feels better. Freed from that guilt, you have more capacity to love.
As I reflected on my parents' lives, they were also half wonderful parents, and half ... not so much. And yet, as my father lay sick and dying, there we all were, gathered around him with tears in our eyes telling him how much we loved him and would miss him. We all were stricken with the most acute grief. Even though he was both a great father and a not-so-great father, looking back we could embrace him in all his humanity, knowing that he did the very best he could.
Yesterday after I came home from shopping for my kids' school supplies, I went into my bedroom and found flowers, and my favorite chocolate, and the sweetest card ever (a cow card because the camp I directed this summer had a western theme). This same daughter who had remarked that I was a cranky mom, had conspired with her little sister to leave me these gifts and the sweetest card all about how much they love me, and some of the things they really admire and appreciate about me. It was beautiful and touching.
Then this morning I woke up to this text from another of my daughters, who is at college: "Hi beautiful Mom. I hope today is wonderful. I love you." My heart melted.
Listen, parents. There are years in raising kids that are excruciating. That you think you just can't do it one more day. The kids fight and yell and rebel and do all the developmentally appropriate things that kids do that make you worry and cry and feel hurt and angry. And sometimes you aren't at your best. You probably feel like you yell more often than you should. You feel like you should be doing more than you are. Most of the time you don't know what to do. And yet, I am sure you are doing the best you can. And it may not seem like it now, but it's enough. It really is. That phase of life has an end point. I promise.
Remember, if God had wanted kids to have perfect parents, he wouldn't have given them to us. Just love them and yourself as much as you can. Apologize when you mess up. Give them a break, and give yourself a break. You're doing just fine.