I do my best parenting when my children are sleeping.

It’s kind of the same type of parenting I did before I had children. You know what I’m talking about – the kind where you know it all. You make all the right choices and say and do all of the right things.

The perfect parenting.

The kind that doesn’t really exist.

children sleepingEarly mornings in my home consist of me waking up and shutting my alarm clock off after hitting snooze the max amount of times allowed before it just gives up on me. After I’m finally awake, I roll over to begin the racing thoughts, which are a mixture of stupidly optimistic positivity and pathetic self-loathing inadequacy. What are we going to do today? Will it be an Instagram worthy day in my immaculately kept home where everyone gets along and meals are consumed with laughter and love? Or will it be the type of day where I never lovingly hug or kiss my children because we have spent the whole day arguing and yelling in angst? I just don’t know.

I know what my picture-perfect parenting mind wants to do, and I make a plan to stick to it as closely as possible.

And then life happens. The children wake up, and life just happens.

It is chaotic and loud and more often than not, I don’t have time to complete a full thought let alone a complete sentence. I try so hard to push them to make good meal choices and not fight like siblings often do, because that’s what I’m “supposed to do”. But somehow we usually end up eating Cheerios with chocolate syrup on top or the kids sneaking in a piece of candy behind my back. That picture-perfect ideal just seems to fall by the wayside. I feel defeated. I feel like I failed them.

We move on with the day, and I’m half teacher and half mom now.

While they’re with the teacher, I still feel the need to check in on them every once in a while to make sure they aren’t making inappropriate comments and that they’re actually absorbing the information being presented to them on the screen. Then I find my daughter has turned off her camera so she can hum loudly and color all over her dry erase board instead of paying attention as they learn how to tell time because she “already knows how to tell time.” And I tell my picture-perfect image of parenthood where to shove it and lose it. My racing thoughts shift and tell me not only will my daughter surely never learn to tell time, but that I’m a bad parent for not checking on her more often. Both things are horribly untrue.

The parenting I told myself I would do after I laid my head down for bed the evening before told me that I would check in on them and that they’d be perfect angels the next day.

The parenting I said I would do the night before when I set my best of intentions for the next day told me that I should relax. If the teacher saw anything alarming, she would let me know and we would handle it in a calm and collected manor.

That is not the parenting I did.

Sometimes I manage to do the parenting I plan to, but not as often as I feel like I’m supposed to. Not as much as I should…

Late into the evenings after we finally get the kids to sleep, the guilt of all the parenting I was “supposed to do” is just too much to bear. I sink into the bed and I sob. This doesn’t happen every night, but on the extremely difficult days, I let it happen. Why didn’t I do it the way I planned? Why can I not be the parent I thought I would be? Why can’t things be the way I want them to all the time?

Then when it’s really rough and I think I can’t take anymore disappointment in myself, I pick myself up and go into my children’s rooms where they are asleep. My heart explodes.

When my children are asleep early in the morning and late into the night, I can stop and think of all of the things I am doing right as a parent.

Academically they are doing just fine. But when it comes to kindness, caring, compassion, love, respect? I think we’re on the right path. Where it really counts in this world, I am the parent I want to be. I am the parent my kids need me to be. Can I do better? Sure! We all can do better. 

I want to replace my late night guilt sessions with late night grateful sessions. What did I do right today? What can I do tomorrow to make me better than I was today?

Maybe if I can do that, I can forget about the picture-perfect parenting I think I’m supposed to do and just love the way I parent my children while they’re awake.