Written by: Naomi Goodale
Although society doesn’t tell us this, being a parent and raising a child IS an accomplishment in and of itself…a BIG one! So, in a very non-morbid kind of way I tend to do this: ‘when I’m on my death bed’ reflection thing…on a fairly regular basis. I suppose it’s the best way that I know how to stay focused on what’s most important in life and remind myself exactly why I do what I do, especially on the most difficult days.
I remind myself that when I am laying there on that bed, I am not going to care about my degrees and certifications. I’m not going to care about my house and my car or how much money and material wealth I acquired in my life. I’m not going to care about my career status and how much recognition I gained in the world. I’m not going to care about any of those things that I can’t take with me when my soul sheds the shell it has been housed in. I am only going to take with me those connections, those beautiful bonds that I built in all my relationships, especially with my children.
Now don’t get me wrong, life and inner-joy/peace is all about maintaining a balance and sense of self, especially as spouses/parents— in pursuing our own hobbies, passions, and/or careers. We need it—but still, with the number one priority being devoted to raising the children we were blessed with and nurturing those relationships with quality time even if the ‘quantity’ of time is difficult to manage in our particular circumstances.
It is in the realization that our children will be our greatest legacies and we owe it to them and ourselves to help shape them into the strong, independent, self-loving, and wise leaders of tomorrow. On my death bed I want to be able stare back into their big, beautiful eyes with the greatest pride in my own, looking at the product of my GREATEST success and accomplishments in life.
When Hannah made me a mother, I instantly understood that with children, what God had really given us, was the opportunity to cleanse us of ourselves. To be shaped and molded into the types of parents/human beings in the world, that would master patience, acceptance, and unconditional love for ourselves, as we learn to extend it to our children and everyone around us. And it is when we face the greatest struggles in life while raising our children that we are most capable of learning those lessons and growing in those ways.
I have had moments of total clarity in the middle of scolding Hannah for spilled milk or getting paint all over her clothes and then proceeding to paint her body and cheeks….But really? It’s spilled milk ….It’s just paint. Why do I care? Because it’s a mess I’ll have to clean up, sure. But, what kind of memories am I giving her in that moment, with my reaction?
What if, rather than coming down on her with such disapproval in my voice, I say instead: “Honey, let’s try to be more careful next time, okay?”, as I offer to help her clean up her mess. What if I could show her by example how to forgive mistakes easily? What if she got to grow up with a mommy who never sweat the small stuff’? A mommy who let her be free to be herself and to get as messy as she wanted, knowing that she’d be loved and accepted no matter what mess she could possibly make of her life. What if she had a mommy who could also ‘let go’ once in a while and paint up her arms too?
I got a sign for our art room that says “color outside the lines” and I love it. So what if I encouraged her to do that in every aspect of her life? What if, by example, I could teach her to be lighthearted? To laugh at herself often. To not take life too seriously. To learn from her mistakes but be present in every moment, not dwelling on the past. To dust herself off and allow others to help pull her up whenever she falls. To always operate from her heart in everything she does. To not live in a box and feel the need to be/do whatever everyone else is doing, if it’s not who she really is and it doesn’t serve her soul’s purpose.
What if I could teach her to love herself even when she’s most disappointed in herself on some impulsive choice or reaction she made in anger? What if I could teach her how to give grace to herself and compliment herself?
What if I could help her build that sense of pride from the inside out and even through her pimple-faced, gapped-tooth, brace-face, four-eyed stages in life, she’d see nothing but perfection when she looks in the mirror. That she’d learn to look at her reflection and be nothing but confident in what she sees. Of course this all applies to my sweet baby girl Adeylnn too. What if, by example, I could be everything I hope they will be?
If you ask me, and I’ll pretend you did, humility is overrated! I am perfectly ok with my girls having an inflated self-esteem because I know that only when they feel such confidence and love for themselves, even amidst their imperfections as society may dictate, will they then be able to love others just as wholly and unconditionally.
And if I have anything to do with it, they will understand the difference between ego and esteem. They will innately appreciate the fact that they have an equal amount to learn from everyone crossing their path as they do to teach. They will not lack wisdom at the expense of their beautifully inflated-self-esteems, to say the least. And because their love-tanks are full, they will be the ones to truly change the face of the earth.
So, in lieu of ‘Music Monday’ and specific to this post, I want to share a classic; “The Greatest Love of All” as our girl Whitney so powerfully sang it. This love is in each of us ready to be realized, nurtured, and expressed to its maximum potential, in order to change the world for the better, by starting with ourselves.
“I believe the children are our future, teach them well and let them lead the way. Show them all the beauty they possess inside. Give them a sense of pride to make it easier. Let the children’s laughter remind us how we used to be.”
We all live and learn from our parents—their triumphs and their travails. And when we become parents ourselves, we especially begin to remember our childhood; those things we will take from them into our own parenting style as well as those things we may want to leave at the door. We come to recognize that they are human and did the best they could with what they were working with.
If we grew up with a set of parents who ‘didn’t’ exactly help build our pride and self-esteem through the repetition of praises we so desperately craved as children, we (hopefully) come to recognize that perhaps they themselves were struggling with self-love, because they weren’t taught. We then value all the more the other individuals in our lives who will be the ones to teach us.
Here is where I dedicate so much of who I am today to having the ‘mother role model’ that I was blessed with in my big sister Davina. I can honestly say that I don’t know who I’d be without the pride, confidence, and self-love that she helped me discover…because she made sure to tell me how proud she was of me…often. I felt her pride and because of it I started believing in myself. If you know her, you know what an incredible woman, parent, and educational leader she is. I love and appreciate her beyond my ability to put in words.
And Hannah is now at an age where we can talk about her character and how important it is to be kind to everyone; to be a friend to those who need one. I tell her what a beautiful heart and soul she has and how smart she is. How proud I am to be her mommy. I make a big deal over the smallest accomplishments of hers and my heart bubbles over every time I hear her excitedly say: “Mommy, I did it!!!” as she turns to me knowing just what to expect. And she amazes me with the things that are on her mind; her ‘Hannah Reflections’ as I call them that sometimes seem to come out of nowhere.
H- “Mommy, remember when I yell and hit Ada-ynn”
Me- (it was three days prior) “Yes, I do remember baby”
H- “THAaaaat not nice”
Me- “No that wasn’t very nice was it? She was sad.”
H- “Ya, and then I say sawy to Adda-ynn and give her a hug”
She just makes my heart melt. She’ll tell me after I’ve gotten dolled up for a date night with daddy or a girl’s night out: “Mommy, you’re beautiful” (with excited exaggeration on the word ‘beautiful’) And not just when I have enough makeup on to hide my own insecurities; she’ll say it first thing in the morning when she’s in my bathroom watching me get ready for the day and all I’ve done is brush my teeth and hair— face still looking like it’s been hit by a semi. Ha!
Little girls mimic their mommies. She wants to be like me, and I want to be more like her. She is as freely giving with her praises, and always genuine, as she is at graciously and confidently receiving them. There is nothing that makes me happier than standing by watching her develop such a strong sense of herself.
It is through these sweet realizations that I find the reward and honor in raising my little ladies. Parenting is no easy feat in the moments when they’re testing our patience to the brim, but it is the one thing that matters the most in this world, as we are the ones paving and pioneering their way— helping shape the future generation of leaders and global change-makers they will become.
They are the future and what a privilege to raise them. What a ‘privilege’ (ha) to deal with their most insane meltdowns as they invariably help us grow in the process, setting an even stronger example for them to follow. What an honor that their sweet little souls chose us to be the avenue in which they would learn all their life lessons in the best possible ways.
I never could’ve known how being a mother would change me so profoundly. It would change the way I see success and the ‘bigger picture’. It would change the way I think, the way I learn, and the way I teach. It is the best thing in the world that ever happened to me and I’ve only barely scratched the surface of it. So even through the next thousand and one tantrums and true tests of patience and ability to handle my frustration and anger, I need to remind myself what an accomplishment it really is—all the more when I am feeling most like a failure at it.
As we all know, children can be stubborn! Some more than others—and it’s definitely not peaches and cream when we’re trying to manage it. Yet, I still see stubbornness as an indicator of great leadership and with proper love and guidance, something that will serve them well in the long haul. As the years go on, when I want to rip my hair out over that stubbornness, I will remind myself to see the beauty in their will. I’m so proud of my stubborn little love bugs. Proud of who they are today and glean with anticipation of who they will become with every year that passes.
I’ll end this on a ‘hats off’ to all the moms and dads reading this. Even through our mistakes and failures, let’s move forward and not beat ourselves up. Let’s stop comparing ourselves to each other and start honoring ourselves instead. Let’s give ourselves GRACE today, tomorrow, and every day after so that we can extend that same grace to our little-and-fully grown ones. Let’s be more accepting of our own mistakes so we can be more accepting of theirs. A safe-haven to ourselves so that we may always be a safe haven to them.
What an honor we share in as parents, to give our children the gift of pride and self-esteem today and in essence the foundation for true success in life…forever. That’s our legacy.
And now that we’ve all given ourselves that pat on the back, let’s end on an old school musical note with our girl Whitney, may she RIP ….Happy Monday everyone!!!
Photography by: TaliaStudio