Pass Me The Manual

by shara.anderson on August 23, 2013

Are you needing some encouragement?  Today, my good friend, Andrea, is sharing some of her insights from being a mom to 2 busy boys:

First of all, in case it hasn’t already been made abundantly clear to you, I am not Shara. You may wish to stop reading now. I understand. You’ve probably got a lot to do today.

In case you keep reading, however, I had better write more. And if you are still reading, we obviously have a thing going here. Like, a connection. I can already tell that someday soon we’re going to exchange bracelets and braid each other’s hair. Okay, no. I’ve gone too far. We haven’t even met yet. So, hello! My name is Andrea, and I am a mom. I have two precious little boys who light up my world, and I homeschool them and drive them to tee ball and mate their socks and give them their vitamins and clean their ears and bake their birthday cakes and try really hard to transform their Transformers and do all those Mom things you all do. If you ever spied on me in my natural habitat, which, let me be clear, I’m not endorsing, I would look a lot like any other mom. Right down to the dandelion in my hair and the peanut butter on my shirt at 5-year-old mouth level. But since you and I have this amazing connection I mentioned earlier, I’m going to tell you a secret. This is just between you and me, now. I’ve worked hard for a long time to keep this on the down low. But I trust you… so here’s the thing. While I look like any other mom…

I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing.

You’ve heard the cliche about the new mom who doesn’t have the first clue how to care for a tiny, helpless infant but the nurses say “Just take him home, dear; you’ll know what to do.” I wasn’t particularly worried back then. I took my babies home… pretty much stayed awake for four straight years… and thus far I am two for two in keeping them alive. But I still don’t know what to do half the time. And I wonder how everyone else seems to have it figured out. All right, so at home, we do okay. I know what I want to teach my children and how I want them to behave, and while they are OH SO VERY FAR from perfect, we muddle through.  At home, I’ve at least got a handle on this mom thing.

It’s out in the public eye where I am lost. That’s where I am reminded that I never took a class on how to be a mother, and that while I’ve read scads of parenting books, what I really need is a universal list of rules that all moms should adhere to, and that doesn’t exist. There are too many judgment calls in parenting, and I never feel qualified to make the decision. How do all the confident moms know the “right” thing to do? Like that really fine line somewhere between “You made Nicholas miss the field trip because he was sniffling?” and “You sent Jillian to the slumber party with a bucket… in case she had to throw up… again???” Why do kids always get sick when they have somewhere really awesome to be, and why do I have to decide if they’re too sick to go or not?

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I want guidelines… a temperature cutoff, a number of coughs per minute, something concrete. But no. You just have to make the call. And I’m no good at that.

Or when we’re at the park and the kids are running up the slide, and then some other kid shows up and wants to join in and his mom says “No-no, Sebastian, slides are for sliding down.” Suddenly I’m the bad mom who lets her hoodlums go the wrong way on the slide and probably forces them to run full-speed with scissors around swimming pools with wet decks.

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Now, if you don’t let your kids run up slides even when no one else is trying to slide down them… well, that’s fine. But are you judging me when I do? I liked climbing up slides as a kid. Heck, I liked it last week, although I’m not gonna lie, this body is a lot tougher to haul up there than my old kid-sized one. But… well… it’s not really the “right” way. So, does that make it wrong? I’ve encountered plenty of moms who clearly think so… and I always wonder if they know something I don’t.

Or how about when your child plays at a friend’s house and something gets broken. Are you supposed to offer to replace it? Kids break stuff. If my kid hadn’t broken it, well, hers probably would have. And I’m pretty sure little Elliott has too many toys anyway. Personally, I love when kids break toys over here. “Oh, NO… we’ll have to throw that away now… I’ll never get to step on it in the dark again… so, so sad…” But the kids don’t seem to agree. So again, I’m left wondering the “right” thing to do.

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Every now and then a mom friend will ask my advice on some such dilemma and I will happily share my opinion – because oh, I have one – but I always feel like I should tack on the disclaimer “You know I’m not a real mom, right?” I am mystified that they ask me in the first place. But it also gives me hope that my friends don’t hold meetings behind my back in which they all discuss what a horrible mom I am.

So now that you know my secret, you’re in one of two camps. Maybe you can relate to this, even just a little. If so, know that you’re not alone. You’re not the worst mom ever. In fact, you’re probably doing just fine. Or maybe you are now pitying me because I obviously didn’t get that mom gene that makes all those decisions total no-brainers for you. If that’s you, count your blessings… and maybe extend a little grace to the rest of us. Don’t jump to the conclusion that we’re negligent parents, that we aren’t paying attention to our children’s behavior or circumstances, or that we don’t care what they do. We are trying our best, seeking to instill in our children both a sense of propriety and the understanding that not everyone lives by exactly the same rules, and that is okay. It’s a complicated lesson for a child… and a difficult reality for a mom. We all have a lot of jobs, but “Mom” is the one we probably are most concerned with getting right. And again… there’s no manual. Well, actually, there are thousands of manuals, but each one gives you different instructions, and don’t even get me started.

Anyway, as Shara would say, blessings on you as you make the oodles of judgment calls that parenting requires each day. And watch out for those crazy kids barreling up the slides…

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Andrea is a full-time mom to two active boys ages 8 and 5.  She takes on homeschooling head on, and, like most moms, parents better than she thinks.  She taught in Honduras for 3 years before coming back home to the freezing Midwest to marry her husband of twelve years, Doug.  They were originally determined to never have children (but that’s a whole other post), but now enjoy their 2 boys.  She is a wonderful baker, insightful encourager and a great friend (especially for those days when I wonder why in the world I’ve signed on to keeping my kids home full-time:)).

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