Reading books and magazines does nothing to really prepare you for the reality of parenthood. I mean, there are helpful tips and some awesome suggestions that you’ll probably tuck away in the back of your mind for use someday. (Trust me, I enjoy a good article in Parent or a helpful chapter in What to Expect just as much as the next mamma). But at the end of the day, it’s all information collected by a specific mom or dad based on their experiences with a specific child.
No one can ultimately tell you how to be the best parent to your child, because no one has been the parent to your child. And, unfortunately, your child doesn’t come with an instruction manual. (Trust me, I know. I had a C-section, and so the doctors literally had to open me up to pull Brady out. If there was any sort of manual inside, they would have found it).
That being said, I was convinced yesterday morning that I was taking steps towards being the best mom I could possibly be, because I made homemade playdough. I mean, how ‘mommish’ is that?!? It’s like the epitome of craft-mom, caring-mom, I-embrace-messes-mom, and I-want-to-make-sure-my-baby-has-plenty-of-sensory-play-mom.
Let’s ignore the fact that it was the first time I actually did any sort of real sensory play with Brady. Honestly, I haven’t felt that he’s needed it. The kid walked at 11 months, climbed stairs at 12 months, and ran at 13 months. He has sensory play all day long, as he pulls tupperware out of cupboards, unrolls sheets of toilet paper (when we forget to shut the bathroom door), breaks televisions by pushing the on and off switch too many times, and tugs on ever-patient cat tails.
But I’ve noticed lately that he has seemed a little bit bored. And although I hope to join some mommy-and-me programs in the spring, the lack of stimulation (and definite need for it) could make for a long winter. So I decided that it was time to take the leap and begin my adventure of creating some fun learning experiences for my toddler.
And we made playdough. Well, I made playdough. He squished it, threw it, and stretched it for a good 20 minutes. That’s a long time for my little guy to sit still, and so I felt as though we had made some huge progress together. I rocked at this mommy thing! I am the best mom!!
Then this happened…
Our house is located in what was once an expansive farmer’s field, and so there are no tall trees to shelter us on the windy days. Yesterday, it felt as though we were in a wind tunnel. And because the door had been left unlocked (and apparently hadn’t been shut as tight as it needed it to be), the wind literally blew the side door open.
Brady charged for that open door with the gusto of Mel Gibson in his dramatic, battle scene of Braveheart. FREEDOM!
Only Brady’s little legs were met with nothing underneath them when he reached the door step, and out he toppled onto the icy front porch. Thank goodness he wasn’t hurt more seriously and that Nate was literally right behind him to scoop him up and out of the frigid cold. Also thank goodness no one was driving by to see a toddler come soaring out of the open side door during the middle of winter. That would be fun to explain to DSS.
Brady received lots of cuddles and some more playdough time, followed by even more cuddles and some Curious George. And as I sat watching cartoons with him, holding him close, I realized that – ultimately – I wish I could protect him against everything that might hurt him. As a mom, although I know it’s not possible, I feel as though it’s my job to keep him from all that would hurt him, both physically and emotionally. That is what would make me the best mom.
But at the same time, I know that each skinned knee or taunt from a bully can be an experience that will make him stronger. Those horrible moments can tear him down, or they can show him just how strong he can be. And although I cannot protect him from all that would hurt him, I can be there to encourage him to get back on that bike. I can show him how to forgive and how to be confident, even when others try to tear him down.
I won’t have all the answers. I will make mistakes. Sometimes, I’ll feel like I’ve got the mom thing figured out and then there will be the days that I let the wind kick the door in. But I will always, always try my best and love him with an unconditional love that cannot be explained or taken away.
That is my job. And on the days when he needs to cry, holding him will be my job too. And maybe we’ll make some more playdough together. Because that’s what the best moms do.