What Makes You a Great Parent?

I’ve noticed something about mothers…

I’m surrounded by wonderful moms all the time — who laugh with their children, who dress them warmly, who love them to the moon and back — yet these same moms, after their children are tucked in bed, often beat themselves up. Do I work too much? Do I get too frustrated? Am I always on my phone? Should I cook more green leafy vegetables?

When my head hits the pillow at the end of the day, I sometimes worry about these things, too. It’s hard not to, when you’re trying so hard and love your children so much. But lately I’ve tried to ask myself a different question: “Do my children feel loved?”

The answer is always yes. And that’s what matters, right? After all, who cares if we had frozen pizza for dinner? They freaking loved it. Does it matter that I missed bedtime? I’ll do it the other 6,569 nights of their childhood. Is it bad that Alex and I let them watch TV shows every morning while we snooze for an extra half hour? I did that growing up and turned out basically fine.

What I hope my boys will remember instead is how my eyes light up whenever they walk into the room, how I listen intently to their hopes and fears, how I love them so deeply for exactly who they are.

Plus, although it’s easy to feel pressure to be some sort of perfect parent, that doesn’t even exist. “I perform this scoring exercise on myself constantly; I suspect many of us mothers do,” writes Rowan Davies in The Guardian. “Are you a good mother? If you measure yourself against the fantasies projected all around you, almost certainly not. But back in the real world, you almost certainly are: you’re a good mother because you love your children, because you do what you can to keep them safe, and because when they take all the skin off their knees it’s you they come looking for.”

Of all the parents I know, every single one — without exception — is fantastic in his or her own way/style/personality. There are so many great ways to raise a child. Everyone’s doing the best they can.

I’m also still laughing about writer Raquel D’Apice’s take:

When people bring up the idea of being a good mom I admit that, by many people’s standards, I am probably not one… BUT, I tell people — if you’d like to focus on the positive for a moment — I am a great dad. All the things a great dad would do with his son are things I do! I put my son in a blanket and then spin the blanket around like a centrifuge because he totally loves when I do that, even though there is a chance he could get hurt. I encourage his fascination with slugs… I don’t cook much since it seems crazy to spend so much time cooking when we could be doing other things? But I eat dinner with him all the time, even if sometimes it is only kidney beans out of a can, and I taught him the ‘Beans, Beans the Magical Fruit’ song, which he enthusiastically sings to anyone who will listen… My favorite part of being a good dad is that I am allowed to make mistakes, which is fantastic because I make mistakes all the time.

What are a few things that make you a wonderful parent? I’d love to hear. :)

P.S. What makes your child laugh, and do your eyes light up when you see your child?

(Painting by Xi Pan.)