Last week I braved Target with all three kiddos in tow. Not that I had an option. We were one bottle away from being out of baby formula.
Taking all three kids anywhere creates a lot of anxiety and tension. I'm always on edge. Primarily because of the kids' safety. Try walking a preschooler, toddler, and infant through the parking lot. Then, once you are inside, taking them all to the bathroom (because you don't want to get into the grocery dept. which is on the complete opposite side of the store from the bathrooms and see your two year old do the potty dance), finding a cart that doesn't wobble, squeak, or stick, load them all in, and proceed through the store.
Then, of course, after safety, is behavior/conduct. Three kids in three different stages and in three different moods. What combination will this create?
On this particular day, we were almost finished shopping. I had prompted Baby E many times to keep up, popped the baby's binky in at predictable intervals, and had told Miss E (again) that I didn't have her allowance with me and a doll house cost much more than $2 and no she couldn't buy popcorn instead.
As we walked past the art supply aisle, a lady called out to me, "Your kids are so polite!" (The store was rather empty, and thus, fairly quiet). I smiled and almost said, "For now." (I tend to attempt to connect to people, at times, by discounting compliments and relating my life to theirs). But this time, I accepted the compliment. She said, "I heard your daughter just say, 'Yes, mommy' when you told her to do something. I wish my kids would do that!"
For a moment, I let it sink in. I'm doing something right.
My kids are turning out ok.
And I'm not saying this based on one instant of good behavior at Target.
I'm saying this because when I think about my children, they are doing ok. And I'm doing a good job mothering them, despite all the little whispers that tell me I've failed (again), that I got impatient, or that I didn't respond in the right way, that I used too negative of words, that I yelled too much, disciplined too little, didn't give so and so enough attention, let them eat too many desserts. etc.
I beat myself up way more than I let on.
I hate being type A sometimes. I want everything to line up perfectly. Ducks in a row. That's me.
But parenting NEVER yields perfection. Just when I get one formula down, one behavior tamed, one mood altered, the next thing crops up and I'm back to square one.
I'm not a "words of affirmation" person (Thank you, The Five Love Languages)....so compliments don't mean much to me. But for some reason, a random stranger saying something nice to me about my kids (beyond the "they are soooo cute" which we get constantly out of transracial adoption/racial weirdness) and their behavior, made me stop and think.
I hope you'll take a moment to pat yourself on the back. Your kids are doing something right. They are making good choices. And they learned it from you. So way to go, mama. Keep up the good work. And remember, we all need grace.