Back when I was new to parenting, each night I lay in bed beside my husband, cataloguing the events of the day, tagging them in my mind as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ parenting moments. Sometimes he helped me see what I’d done well, but at other times I only saw where I’d struggled. On the days when the balance tipped in favour of my failures, defeat followed me to sleep.
Today, over ten years later, I have had more practice at parenting and feel less like a novice. Experience has smoothed my rough edges. I recognise myself as being a little more accepting of my children, a little more relaxed with them and a little more understanding of their developmental needs and abilities. Whereas once I might have been stressed out by a fussy baby feeding every fifteen minutes in the evening, I now know that cluster nursing and a fussy time of day are normal for a baby, and this will pass. Whereas once I might have been frustrated that my young child left her toys everywhere, I now know that young children don’t understand an adult’s need for tidiness and order. At one time I might have been taken aback that my toddler found big noisy shops confusing and frustrating, resulting in a tantrum. I now know that such experiences can be overwhelming for a little child. I can avoid such places (or go on my own if I can). He will grow out of this.
So I’m a bit more easy-going. No longer a lawyer, I now make a living helping people to relax and feel at peace. I spend a lot of time thinking about motherhood, parenting and the mind. I even write about it now and then. I guess I’ve changed and grown.
But that mother full of self-doubt and regret is as much a part of me as she ever was. In spite of changing as a person and as a mother, regardless of my baby steps towards confidence and letting go and acceptance, deep within me I am still that woman. In my heart, I see her, an unconfident mother offloading the day’s trials, craving absolution, longing for support. On my most difficult days, she inhabits me entirely. Then, I feel like a failure and a fraud. I wonder how I could possibly bring peace and relaxation to others, when my family life is characterised by chaos and drama? I wonder how I could possibly write about gentle parenting when the tidal wave of anger and resentment sweeps me beneath the surface?
Though I have grown, I am the same fallible human being I always have been. Though I try to bring peace to others, I do so in humility, from a place of brokenness and imperfection. Though I write each day about this journey of parenting, I approach it as fellow pilgrim. I am not here to preach, but to make an offering. These words are the sound of the stones beneath my feet on my parenting path: the rough, the smooth, the potholes; the departure, the journey and the arrival.
I see my children growing and thriving. I rejoice in the compliments of people who say how lovely they are. I delight in watching them interact with others, express their natural curiosity and learn about the world. I am the witness to their quiet, silent blooming. Frame by frame, they develop slowly, unfolding gradually like a springtime flower. But as their mother I see the time-lapse film of their lives: to me they have grown at speed, though at first it may appear to be gradual. In this film, there is a shadow that flickers unnoticed behind the flowers as they bloom. Slow down the film, dig into the soil, find me, passing unseen beneath and around my children, willing them to grow, helping them to develop into things of beauty and fruitfulness. I stand back and know that the miracle of their development has not happened in isolation: I have played my own part.
Am I a “good mother?” Well, I’m not bad.
Words and photograph © Lisa Hassan Scott 2013.