What is your best? All through out life we hear that common phrase, “Just do your best.” Well for those of us who are perfectionist, this concept gets hazy, ‘cause there is always, “I could have done better.” Ya know, “I could have worked harder, I could have worked longer.” And then throw this concept into the parenting arena, and we are wondering how much therapy our kid is going to need by the time they are 20, ’cause, “I could have done it better.” As parents we want to do a good job of raising good kids. We want them to know we love them, we want to be patient teacher to them, we want to have tea parties and play legos and firefighter with them, all the while teaching them Values that will help them throughout their entire life. We want to teach them responsibility and respect. And we want to have patience in it all. And as we see ourselves falling short of our “BEST” expectations of ourselves as parents it begins a destructive cycle.
For example your day might look like this… “You were up 1-AM with a crying baby and up again at 3-AM with a kid who insisted there was a monster in his closet, finally at 4-AM all were sleeping once again, then at 6:30 am the alarm goes off. You do your “best” to be bright eyed and bushy tailed getting your first grader out the door to school, but you feel like a truck hit you, so rather than make him a warm bowl of oatmeal like all the parents who do their “best” do, you throw a bowl of stale captain crunch in front of him. Now the “stale” factor is not actually your fault, the kids keep leaving the bags of cereal open when they put the box away. But it inevitably becomes your responsibility as you tell yourself you need to do a better job of teaching your kids how to take care a box of cereal. I mean how are they going to keep a job some day if you haven’t even succeeded in getting them to routinely fold down the cereal bag. Finally, with a kiss planted on his cheek, at 7:30 you send him out the door to catch his ride. You run back to your bed as fast as you can hoping your 4-year-old and 10-month-old sleep at least another hour. You lie there trying to catch up on some lost sleep, but in the back of your mind, your “do your “best” coach” is chanting, “Laundry, dishes, toilets, and mop the floor so when the baby eats off it today you won’t feel as bad.” Your body’s need for sleep wins this battle but the feelings of inadequacy are still there when you wake. Your 3-year-old pulls you out of bed after you finally quit thinking long enough to sleep for just 20 minutes. Again, stale captain crunch is what is on the menu. It was either that or try and feed her the baby’s instant cereal. After wards when you are cleaning up the spilled milk, you feel guilty, your daughter stuck her elbow in her milk and you yelled at her in the moment. And you are now telling yourself how you need to be a patient mom who doesn’t “yell over spilt milk”. Then the day is filled with a couple tea party’s and lots of house hold chores, when the baby didn’t insist he be front and center. That afternoon when the sacred naptime was almost near, you clean up the smeared jelly on the table from lunch and you begin to make the impossible list of all the chores you intend on finishing while the kids nap. Finally that afternoon you load the younger kids up and go pick up your first grader from school. The rest of the afternoon is filled with more chores, keeping the baby out of the toilet, putting your 3 year old in time out for coloring on the walls, and convincing your first grader that it is against the law to make water balloons inside the house. All while some how managing to cook dinner and wash a load or two so your husband would have clean underwear to wear to work tomorrow. And some how manage to get your first grader to his little league game at 7. After the game, the evening is filled with dinner clean up, followed by baths and a bedtime story. After kissing the kids goodnight and tucking them in 3 times ‘cause they need to go potty or get their “other” “favorite” teddy. Or tell you about an owie they just found. Once tucked away, “for sure”, you throw a load of laundry in the dryer. As you collapse into bed your “do you best coach” chants, “You need to be more patient, you need to have more tea parties, you need have a cleaner floor and definitely cleaner toilets. You need to read more stories. You obviously aren’t doing your “Best” because you can do better.”
Now obviously your day may not look exactly as the scene above, but I am sure many of you can relate to demands of Parenthood. And I challenge you now to take a look at what your best is. I remember when I had babies I would feel guilty for napping when they would nap sometimes. I thought I should be doing housework, or better yet, reading my bible or reading some book that taught me to be a better person. But the fact of the matter was, what I needed in that moment to be my “best” was a nap!!!
So I challenge you to define your best. Look at yourself Honestly, and have goals rather than expectations. Expectations are something we expect right away. Goals take time. And set realistic goals. Not goals that only parents who don’t require sleep can accomplish. And in those moments of “yelling over spilt milk”, go back and teach your kids one of the most valuable lessons they can learn, and that is how to say I am sorry. My definition of “Doing your best” is... Learning from yesterday, accepting who you are in the moment of today, and growing even more as the future days unfold.