I don’t know about you but these days, there will come a moment everyday, however transient, when my heart goes all frail on me and I wonder if I have even done anything right. I have always been very self-critical; it hasn’t always worked to my advantage but as I grew older, I learnt to harness the ability to find fault in everything I do and turn it into motivation for excellence. And it paid off in my studies and career (or whatever I used to have before I became a mother). I excelled in everything I worked on, and the grades, appraisals, anything that was telling of a report card were apparent indicators of my best efforts. It was easy to know that I did my best, and I thrive on knowing that I gave my best efforts.
But…parenting is NOTHING like I have ever worked on previously. Don’t get me wrong…I have never once thought parenting to be a race. I don’t seek to be the best mother in the world. I simply wonder if I have done enough for my child because everyday, something is bound to happen that makes me feel like I could have given more to the being I am nurturing. And surely, this being is way more important than any of the silly exams or projects I have undertaken in the past?
My everyday could look like this:
F is playing independently or reading in our living room. I look up from whatever I am doing, and I am suddenly consumed with guilt as I realise that I haven’t taken her to the playground to run with wild abandon for weeks just because I haven’t been feeling well enough to do so.
F is ill. I have been trying to coax her into drinking more water but she refuses every attempt. When I finally get some fluid into her, she lets the fluid dribble down her chin and breaks into a cheeky smile because that is apparently funny to her. I lose my temper and tell her off for doing so. She looks at me with tears welling up in her eyes and tries to hug me. I dodge her attempt to be close to me and go on to clean up the mess rather angrily. As I calm down, I feel like a downright lousy mother as I realise I should have been more patient and that I should have held my tongue and accepted her gesture of apology.
These are just two of the infinite permutations on how I feel that I have let my daughter down. And I have been struck by this guilt every single day ever since she was born. Have I done anything right? There isn’t a pat on my back to make me think otherwise. And it’s not like parents are routinely entitled to pats on the back. In fact, criticisms inundate my everyday, and it’s up to me to filter them and take up the constructive ones, but it is just so darn difficult when I doubt myself to begin with. On good days, I shrug the guilt off and know that it is okay that I tripped up. On bad days, like today, I crumble.
This evening, as F clung onto me tightly with her head buried in my chest for our bedtime prayer, I took in her baby scent and am reminded of how small a person I am and yet, how much she needed me, and how much she needed me to be BIG. I asked God to help me become what I can never be without Him, to help me do something right, and I broke into sobs mid-prayer. It was then when F drew her head back away from my chest and looked at me with so much love and concern in her eyes that I knew my prayer was answered in an instant.
“Mama, you want tissue?” She asked gently, yet earnestly as she stroked my face and nodded to urge me to go on and take a piece of tissue.
And there and then, I thought, of all the things I have done wrong, I might have done one thing right.