My mum, wise old owl that she is, has said to me more than once: “You don’t have to be a ‘perfect’ mum. Just ‘good enough’.”
The first few times I brushed her off – that goes against every ambitious, determined, control-freak, impatient bone in my body. But lately I’ve been reassuring myself with it, because perfection is actually impossible with a toddler.
I woke up in a bad mood today. Saturdays are hard for me, in a new city, when most of my friends are with their families and my husband’s at work. Rod got the wee man up while I was still in the shower and would have probably gone straight to work if I hadn’t stroppily demanded: “How would you like to start your working day soaking wet from the shower?” He stayed until I was dressed.
I gave myself a pep talk as I sipped my coffee and watched Jake and the Neverland Pirates with the wee man. My attitude would determine what kind of day it would be. The sun was shining, we’d find loads of fun stuff to do.
My patience was tested at breakfast. He’d wanted Shreddies but lost interest once he spotted my Coco Pops. Reluctantly I switched the bowls and watched as he slopped chocolatey milk all down his onesie. Rather than leap for the paper towels and grab the spoon, I decided to leave him to it. The suit could go in the wash. (The wash basket was overflowing, I reminded myself). When it was time to get dressed I gave him the choice of two shirts (a suggestion from a mum friend); he picked one and didn’t scream when I put it on. It was beginning to dawn on me that I needed to do more to encourage his independence.
We drove to the wonderfully-named Tyrebagger for a nature walk. I let him choose the path. He ran ahead squealing in delight. I pointed out all the things I thought would interest him – the colours of the heather, the pine cones on the path, a little house that had been built with sticks. He liked them all, but wasn’t noticeably fascinated until we got to a little bridge. He hung over the side, pointing at the water, the rocks and the plants. I gave him some pebbles and we spent about 15 minutes throwing them into the water. Normally I would have encouraged him to move on after a few minutes, but he was happy, so we stayed, throwing stone after stone over the bridge. He loved it when he got a really good ‘plop’ sound. He slung his arm around my neck a few times and gave me a cheek-to-cheek squeeze. Eventually we made it a bit further along the path and found lots of tree stumps to play around, climb over and sit on.
It sounds boring. It nearly was boring. I wanted to get to the end of the walk and move on to the next activity. But he’s two and a half and everything is exciting for him. You read all kinds of crap about savouring the moment, finding simple joys, seeing the world through the eyes of a child – usually on Facebook with a line saying ‘share this with your loved ones’ – but I don’t believe anyone really follows the advice. Because I’m not going to lie, it was a challenge to slow myself to his pace and I had to make an effort to remain engaged in such simple activities. Now, though, sitting in a quiet house while he naps, I feel relaxed. I can see how stressed I’ve been this week with work. I admit to myself that I find it very difficult to switch from efficient business person to fun mum in an instant. I worry constantly that I’m doing both half-arsed and I question every choice. Then I get stressed from the effort of trying to be perfect at both. I’m not. I’m just doing the best I can.
Maybe I should listen to my own mum and be a ‘good enough’ mum. After all, she’s pretty awesome.