At the end of the day, most of us sink into our couches, worn out and wondering if the parenting choices we make will pay off. Kids are demanding. They are a couple of full-time jobs worth of work with very little reward from the world. All of us want the very best for our kids, but sometimes we doubt if we are good enough. Our kids depend on us for everything, but can we deliver?
If you've ever wondered if you're a good parent, you probably are. Just worrying about your ability to parent means that you are one of the good ones. There are so many ways to parent well, regardless of what anyone else says is right. If you do any of the following things, rest assured that you're doing your job well.
• Caring enough to freak out, get emotional, and punish your child when he does something stupid.
• Demanding to know where she's going, who she's going with, and when she's coming back.
• Reading the same bedtime story over and over with only minimal complaining.
• Checking for monsters under the bed and leaving on a nightlight.
• Refusing to let her leave the house until she changes into something appropriate.
• Having an impromptu dance party in the kitchen and not caring how silly you look.
• Letting him stay up a little late after a long day just because you missed him while you were apart.
• Not letting her quit an instrument or sport when things get hard.
• Getting to know his friends, even the ones who look a little rough around the edges.
• Getting to know the parents of his friends, just to double-check.
• Baking cookies and making extra dinner to lure him and his friends to your house so you can keep an eye on things.
• Singing Disney songs in the car. Loudly. Despite your kids' protestation.
• Feeling horrible when you lose your cool and yell.
• Letting the toddler wear his ski cap in July, even when everyone looks at you funny, because he picked it out himself.
• Staying up late to finish a batch of cookies, do the dishes or help a teenager with her homework.
• Laying in bed at the end of the night and worrying about how you can give everyone in your family everything they need.
• Caring. Crying. Worrying. Embracing. Smiling. Laughing. Loving.
Being a good parent has nothing to do with what books or method you follow and everything to do with learning from your mistakes because, let's be honest, we all make mistakes. Somehow, even amid those missteps, you are not just a good parent; you are the best possible parent for your child.
Luckily for us, children are forging. They are resilient, and they are truly grateful for our efforts, although they are often poor at putting that gratitude into words. All good parenting requires is showing up, taking notice, and trying your best to meet your child's needs. And lest you ever forget, your child needs you. He needs all of you- your strengths, your weaknesses, your imperfections, and your idiosyncrasies.
He doesn't care if the house is less than perfect or dinner tasted off. He doesn't care that you still want to lose five pounds or you had a rough day at the office. What he cares about is playing make-believe and cuddling on your lap. When he's a teenager, he cares that you still ask him about his day at school and bug him about his friends. He will always care that you see the very best in him and believe that he can accomplish anything.
If you're looking for the secret to good parenting, this is all you need to know: be you.
Heather Hale is a fourth-generation Montanan, mom to three crazy boys, and wife to one amazing husband. You can learn more about her eco-conscious lifestyle at moderatelycrunchy.com.