My grandma, Darlin, was my dear friend and a wonderful woman. She loved baking, thoughtful gift-giving and note-writing, black jelly beans, her Catholic faith, and being classy. She always felt her best in nylons, heels, hairspray, big sunglasses and big earrings. I will never forget the time I slipped getting on the escalator shopping with her in L.S. Ayres and as I started to fall she managed to catch me- high heels and all- without missing a beat. She was my hero, and I felt like she was always there to catch me with her steadfast love and prayers through every phase of my young life. (But I am still scared of escalators :)
Darlin was still alive for the first several years of my motherhood. She rarely offered advice, but if she did it was always worth remembering, like "You know, Jen, sometimes babies just have to cry!" It was always humble advice, because my grandma would be the first to admit that she wasn't a perfect mom. She raised four girls in the 1950's-70's as a military wife, living all over the world. Over family dinners my aunt and mom would occasionally tease her as they told stories about the some of the conditions that they lived in growing up or the foods they ate or their general lack of supervision. As we all laughed, my grandma would say defensively, "I did the best I could with what I had!" She said it so much that it was a running family joke. If anyone criticizes you in our family, you just say "HEY! I DID THE BEST I COULD WITH WHAT I HAD!" and remember Darlin as you do.
And for me, that is the biggest lesson. Despite the big glasses and perfume and nylons, she wasn't a perfect glossy magazine parent. Who is, really? I am sure if she could have gone back there would have been some things that she did differently. She was just trying to do a good job with the resources available to her. She had a small military income, a frequently absent husband, four very young children, was often half a world away from her home in Buffalo, NY, and wasn't able to drive a car. I think it's safe to say she had some things stacked against her. But she did the best she could with what she had. . .and what more can you do?
I say this because a lot of times mommy friends and I are chatting and I hear the weight in their voice of "mommy guilt." I can't put my finger on it but I sense it is an overall fear that we share that our kids watch too much TV, don't eat enough vegetables, should be doing more crafts, love processed foods too much, are too attached to their pacifier, don't sleep through the night, are still having potty accidents, haven't learned another language or insert any other insecurity amplified by what others are doing on Pinterest and Facebook here. We can easily look around and feel like everyone else has it all together and we are messing everything up. But the truth is, you're just doing the best you can with what you have. I am, too. And so is most everyone else. We all have a different set of external and internal resources to match up with the demands of our daily lives. We each have unique gifts, talents, circumstances, people, finances and personalities that impact the way we parent and live. And NO ONE, I mean NO ONE, no matter what they blog or pin or facebook or even tell us to our face, does all of the things "right" all of the time. Whatever those things even are! I sure as hell hope doing things right means feeding your kids lots of hot dogs and cueing up the PBS with a big smile on your face, because that's how I roll. We can trust that we won't get everything "right" all of the time, but that we can get the important things right. God knows just what those important things are, and they are different for each of us. If He wants it to happen, it's gonna happen! Who can stop our God? Who can limit Him? If we give God our best, he's going to make that not only enough, he is going to make it abundant. If He can feed five thousand people with a few loaves and some fish with enough to spare, He can bless and break what we have to offer, too.
The very last thing our kiddos need is a mama who is beating herself up because she perceives that she is not giving her kids the "best". If we are giving our people our true, honest selves, we are giving them the best! You're the best!! You are the best mom for your kids, just like I am for mine, and Darlin was for hers. We're doing the best we can with what we have. You don't have to be perfect to be the best. Darlin was a living testament to that. People can and will love you just the way you are, just as we loved Darlin. . .and still do.
Happy Birthday, D.
"Society is asking so much of parents and caregivers in today's world: "Make sure your child is safe and healthy"; "Develop routines"; "Set Limits"; "Read to your child each night at bedtime"; "Help your child feel secure and loved." And all that is added to the other things we are already doing in our lives. Many adults feel that they are falling short in one, if not all, of the "assignments" of their lives. They often feel they are failures. Well, people are not failures if they are doing the best they can. If parents are managing to cover most of the important bases most of the time, they have every reason to feel good about who they are and what they're doing. Our performance doesn't have to be measured against anyone else's- just against our own abilities to cope." - Fred Rogers (from the book Many Ways to Say I Love You: Wisdom for Parents and Children from Mister Rogers)