By Brie Gowen
I sat beside my 5-year-old daughter, watching proudly at her expressions of excitement. I had taken her for her first pedicure, and she grinned ear to ear as the young woman applied bright, glittery pink polish to her awaiting toes. It couldn’t have been a more perfect color for my girl. Pink was kinda her thing.
My mind raced back in time to when she was first born. I remember purposely avoiding pink. I made certain to paint her room in warm, neutral colors, and did the same when picking out strollers and car seats. It wasn’t that I had anything against the color pink. I just didn’t want to force pink on her. Would she be a girly girl or more of a tomboy like I had been? I didn’t have a clue, but I didn’t want to sway her budding personality one way or the other. I wanted her to emerge amazing on her own. Crazy?
I’m pretty sure I had read it somewhere, and much like my decision to offer vegetables prior to fruit, my parenting knowledge came from a plethora of books I read to ensure I would do things right. I offered water, not juice, and worried about things like too much TV. I took to the Internet to measure her milestone achievements and must have read about a billion articles on crying it out vs. attachment parenting. I certainly didn’t want to raise an axe murderer with mommy issues.
But by the second child things changed a bit. I finally understood why that seasoned mom had given her 18-month-old a dumdum sucker out of her purse (something I had watched in a mixture of disdain and awe). I realized that eventually they stopped crying constantly, and one day they would ask for food beyond chicken nuggets or macaroni and cheese.
As I went along the roller coaster track of motherhood I discovered all kids are different and that sometimes the books are just plain wrong. Sometimes they don’t write a chapter that explains your child, and that’s OK. There comes a time when you realize that every bump on the head doesn’t mean a concussion, and that cereal for dinner is not the end of the world.
So you co-sleep or you don’t. Whatever. You wear your baby or let em cry it out. They love you either way. You end up breastfeeding past the 12-month mark that one book suggested, or you formula feed with zero guilt or shame. It’s all good. Whether you go to work all day or work at home raising babies, at the end of the day you kiss your kids goodnight and tell them that you love them like crazy. Now whether they got a bath or not is a different story. They kinda brushed their teeth, right? Ahhh well, they fall out anyway.
Somewhere along the line, and I guess this is my favorite/least favorite part, one day you look over and your fat baby with the yellow nursery is suddenly a big girl cutting her own lunch with a knife and fork. You realize she’s gone and grown up on you, and by the look of things, maybe you didn’t mess up too bad after all. She smiles brilliantly across the table; then you’re sure you did just fine.
With my first child I was worried about perfection, but as I went along I realized there was no such thing. There was just what’s right for any given moment, and doing it that way, most days felt pretty darn perfect. You kept going and you realized a toy-strewn living room was quite alright if it meant more time spent enjoying each and every moment, rather than thinking too much about messing it up.
One day you looked over at sparkly pink toenails, and you realized your princess had made her own way, that she had emerged as a beautiful butterfly despite your misgivings. After you had a couple you realized each child is a brilliant butterfly in their own special way, each blooming unique and marvelous no matter what.
The truth is, if you’re worried about screwing up you’re probably doing fabulously, and you can relax it a notch, no problem. I guess I finally learned that after a while.
About the Author: Brie Gowen is a 30-something (sliding ever closer to 40-something) wife and mother. When she’s not loving on her hubby, chasing after the toddler or playing princess with her four-year-old, she enjoys cooking, reading and writing down her thoughts to share with others. Brie is also a huge lover of Jesus. She finds immense joy in the peace a relationship with her Savior provides, and she might just tell you about it sometime. She’d love for you to check out her blog at BrieGowen.com.