Dear Moms, You must be excited that Mothers’ Day is just around the corner* wondering what crafts your little gems have been making you at preschool or how long your older kids have been saving money to buy you that extra special gift. You must be psyched that finally that one day when mothers are celebrated is here and you’ll get to have a “day off” (Breakfast in bed, anyone?) I know I’d be more than happy to have my family pamper me for the day but you know what would really, really make me happy? Watching my children smile and knowing that they are really happy! Ok, I KNOW we all want that, but sometimes I wonder if we want our children to be happy just to have a break from their nagging, demands and constant questions. Do we really take them out to the park to have fun or do we do that so they can release their inexhaustible energy and spare us all the bedtime agony? Do we buy them gifts to reward their good behavior or to bribe them to behave better all the time? Do we sign them up for karate classes for their physical and emotional development or just to fit in with other families who enroll their children in all sorts of extra curricular activities?
I have been taking an honest look at my motherhood lately. I know for a fact that it is far from perfect, but you know what? It doesn’t have to be. I don’t have to do any of the things I mentioned to see my kids smile. Being a good mother isn’t really about what I do for my children but how I make them feel. I could be out all day with them, driving them from one playground to another, stuffing their tiny bellies with jelly beans and soda and all sorts of junk food they’re not allowed to consume everyday, buying them every toy they had ever wished for and they still wouldn’t be happy – not because they’re ungrateful, selfish or bratty but because they didn’t notice any happiness in my eyes while I was doing all those things for them. Kids are naturally inclined to seek their parents’ approval, they crave their undivided attention, they want to please Mom and Dad at any cost. Kids love to play and interact with their parents. They want to feel close, and they just want to feel loved. Unfortunately, this very simple fact of life often goes unnoticed with all the daily pressure and chaos in the background. We parents fall into the habit of buying to make up for all the lost time we don’t to spend with our children; That time which in their little minds is translated as love and caring. We are fooled into believing that our kids will be happier if they get that Xbox game or that new bike they’ve been eyeing for weeks.
We complain about our toddlers’ restlessness to our besties, we hold mommy meetings to solve a friend’s “issue” with her rebellious teenage daughter, we are astonished at how tech-savvy this generation is as if we’re oblivious to all the hours they spend exploring technology – without our supervision at times. Whether mischievous, rebellious or overachieving, these kids may just be looking for attention or approval. How can we be so blind at times not to recognize their basic need for affection? I’m not writing this letter to condemn or patronize. I am certain that moms do what they do best: multitask and make things happen as they excitedly tick off items on their long to-do lists. I know they never miss recitals or forget vaccination appointments. I also know that I could use some advice myself on how to be a more patient and empathetic mother. But I think we moms are treating motherhood like a job at times, rather than a calling. We go about our days performing our duties so robotically that we rarely stop and think about what we’re doing and why we’re not doing what we should. We’re experiencing the ups and downs of parenting as if they weren’t even supposed to happen – with little understanding and loads of protesting. And the worst thing about it all is that we don’t restrain ourselves from publicizing our dissatisfaction – even in front of our children. I say it now with a heaviness in my chest; I am guilty of all of the above. I have sadly let my frustrations control me for far too long. I’ve allowed the fantasy of the “perfect child” ruin the life of my real one. That “perfect child” stood between me and my son, dictating the way I should raise and discipline him. I guess we all want our children to be a certain way. We’ve all had childhood dreams about how our life would turn out to be, including the tiny versions of ourselves. But children aren’t born to be our clones, they have souls and their very own dreams and ambitions. It is when we grasp the fact that we don’t own those little creatures under our custody that we truly begin to appreciate them for who they are.
I’ve been focusing on “fixing” my child for most of his tender years. Although I have been successful at ensuring better treatment outcomes through earlier intervention, I have failed to notice all the good traits he has. He’s such a talented creative boy on the inside, but we’ve been too consumed with the defiance, aggression and anxiety to help him achieve his potential. One might not blame me for being overly obsessive about chasing after a diagnosis. Perhaps my paranoia is justifiable after all, but if I had to do it all over again, I would have at least done it with his best interest in mind. I confess to being selfish sometimes for trying to change him so that he’d fit in with other kids – so that I, in turn, could maintain what was left of my otherwise incompatible friendships. But some relationships are just not worth saving at the expense of one’s most beloved. I’m sure that we treat our children as a top priority all of the time, but deep down are we just disgruntled parents who are fed up with compromising? I hope that all the questions I raised in this letter would inspire you to accept your children for who they are; to place a hand on your heart as you remember your purpose; to sincerely love your parenting game. These kids may be giving you a hard time more frequently than they should but nobody said parenting was smooth sailing. Parenting isn’t torture either! Relax and be easy on yourself. And if there’s one tip that has never failed me in this journey that I might share with you it’s to pray for your children everyday, pray for their safety, for their health and well-being, for their obedience and devotion, for their happiness and success. Always pray for God to fill your hearts unconditional love they’ll need to lead a fulfilled life.
What advice would you like to share with other mothers to help them appreciate and enjoy their motherhood every day? Leave your survival tips in the comments below. I’m always thrilled to hear from you.
Happy Mothers’ Day
* Mothers’ Day is celebrated on March 21st of every year in Middle Eastern countries