When it comes to being a mom, I have a confession: I don’t think I’m a very fun one.
I’m constantly bombarded on Facebook by images of children splashing in mud puddles and finger painting in their undies in the middle of the kitchen floor or baking with messy flour and slopping wet ingredients all over the counter and floor. And this is so not me.
It causes me to believe that I might be subpar in the fun department.
I know, I know. I’m not supposed to be comparing myself to other moms and that every mother’s journey is different. I’ve always believed in the quote, “Comparison is the thief of joy” but I’ve never been very good at living by it.
When my kids were younger we would walk around the puddles to avoid having a mess to clean up when we got home.
We totally finger painted! However, it was a very (overly) controlled scenario where the entire house was covered in a heavy-duty tarp and newspapers (slightly kidding).
We’ve always cooked and baked together. But it usually begins with me telling them to grab a measuring cup and fill it with flour yet ends when I grab it halfway through their scoop because it’s not worth cleaning up the huge mess my mind is screaming to me will be made if I let them do it themselves.
The key part in the last sentence: my mind.
I live every single day with a diagnosed generalized anxiety disorder, and I have no qualms about being completely honest and transparent about it. Sad but true: anxiety rules my life and my choices WAY more often than it should. When I became a parent it went from being just a small part of who I was to consuming and ruining every aspect of my life. I start every thought I have with the phrase “What if…” Imagine doing that with every thought that crosses your mind.
I know it’s a problem for which I need to seek professional help, and I do. I do not like what anxiety has done to me, and I resent it for the parent it has turned me into. I am so sad that I feel this way. And I am hoping that with some hard work and self-love, I will be able to look back on my time as a mother and not regret the way I chose to parent my kids.
My children are 7 and 8 years old, and I am just now realizing that some of these anxious decisions I have made as a parent are beginning to have an effect on them.
My oldest has NEVER liked getting dirty. That began with his first birthday party when he didn’t want to stick his hands in his smash cake, which he had all to himself! I have noticed more often now when he’s faced with decisions such as going outside to play or which toys to pick out with his birthday money, he calculates his moves very carefully based on the risk they “might” carry. Part of me says that calculating risks might be a valuable skill to him when he’s a grown-up, but he is ONLY 8.
My daughter is my rebel. She loves taking risks and fears nothing. I’m starting to see the disappointment on her face and in her actions when I tell her no because there’s even the slightest risk or if the “what if” scenario I play out in my head is too much for me to handle.
They don’t understand any of that yet. Quite frankly, I don’t want them to. They’re still innocent, and they deserve to have experiences like kids are supposed to. I feel like I’m holding them back; that I’ve deprived them the joy of childhood.
I know in my heart that I do have fun with my children.
I can be a fun mom! We go places and we do fun things together (pre-COVID). I just hate looking back and saying to myself, “You should have let them do (fill-in-the-blank) more often because later on, they’ll resent you.” Which is now the soundtrack of my inner monologue on repeat. Whoa, don’t be so dramatic you’re saying, right? I’m working on it.
I’m praying that not all hope is lost – and it is not.
They are not broken. They are still young. I’ve been working slowly toward this epiphany for a few weeks now, and the best thing is that I am aware and working on my mind and mental health. I can take time to be present and aware that I can make the choice to change the path. We all teach our children that everyone makes mistakes and through mistakes, you can grow stronger.
Am I still going to want things cleaned up when we are done making messes? Absolutely. Am I still going to enter into some activities with an apprehensive mind? No doubt. I’m working on training myself with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and meditation. By making slow changes now; by letting my very full heart say yes when my anxious mind wants to scream NO from the mountain top; I can still give my children the childhood they want and need.