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All the Reasons You Deserve a Gold Star (or a Thousand) Today

Photograph by Twenty20

Pretty often, I feel like I’m failing as a mom.

To help the days at home with my children go more smoothly, there is so much I want to do, so much I want to say. But, at the end of the day, I collapse into a heap of smeared mascara with a splotch of snot on my shoulder and shake my head. Too much screen time. So many messes. Not enough vegetables (if any).

Every day is spent with four kids—ages 3 months to 7 years—and that means I don't get much adult interaction. Our weekly trip to Target just doesn’t cut it and, although my husband is home for dinner each night, the poor guy can’t handle everything I need to say to process the day.

I think I’ve deduced that the biggest problem with all this is that I'm a "words of affirmation" person, according to The 5 Love Languages. And, even though my little people are getting pretty awesome at saying thank you for my world famous box of mac ’n' cheese preparation, I need more. So, I decided to start giving myself some gold stars. It’s a little silly and a lot of awesome. But, honest to goodness, at the end of the day, I'm rocking mama life. I deserve gold stars. And I bet you do, too!

Today, you and I get a gold star (or a thousand) especially for …

Packing your husband’s lunch. It’s just plain nice. It saves the family money. And, really, someone should be enjoying those scrumptious leftovers. Throw in a love note and that’s quadruple gold stars for you.

Remembering to call the grandparents. You guys, my father-in-law pretty much bought an iPhone just so he could FaceTime the grandkids. I need to call more, but for the times I do, you guessed it: gold star.

Trimming nails, cleaning ears, wiping bums and teaching the kids to properly brush their teeth. Y'all, these duties take up so much of my day thanks to the actual event, talking through the reasons why and the intense cleanup from independence gone wrong. Giant gold star, right here.

Finding that funky smell in the car. It’s been pestering you for weeks and it finally made the top of the to-do list. Our situation? An old hot chocolate cup in the far backseat cup holder. Negative star for letting that happen, but two gold stars for finding it before it spilled!

Every hour, there are so many love tanks waiting to be filled. When I make it through a round, sometimes two at a time, I feel like Wonder Woman.

Expertly knowing how to get both the baby and the toddler down for a nap at the same time. It doesn’t happen every day, but when it does, angels sing and gold stars fly.

Getting outside with the kids despite the weather. The person who said "there is no bad weather, just bad clothing," never tried to get four kids dressed in layers for an outdoor adventure. Thirty minutes in and I’m usually close to quitting, so when I persevere, boom—it’s raining gold stars.

Nursing the baby while snuggling a big kid and hosting story time in your lap. I can’t juggle balls but, girl, I can juggle kids like no other. Every hour, there are so many love tanks waiting to be filled. When I make it through a round, sometimes two at a time, I feel like Wonder Woman.

Cooking veggies that only Mama will eat. I buy veggies in order to research amazing recipes that make them palatable only to serve them up and beg “please, oh please, just take a tiny bite to try it.” Then, I end up eating a week’s worth of maple glazed carrots or bacon-infused brussels sprouts leftovers all by my lonesome. Gold-star encrusted asparagus, comin’ up next.

Teaching balance. In an effort to practice what I preach, I’ve been walking my kids through my mental thought process when it comes to one cookie instead of two, a variety of exercise with moderate screen time and daily chores alongside rest and relaxation. It’s hard to do for myself, let alone trying to teach my kids to embrace balance, too. Gold star for effort.

Baking cookies. Do I have time for luxurious kitchen time? Not really. Am I in the business of making memories? Yes, yes I am. Add gold sprinkles to those cookies, because Mama is on a roll.

Setting boundaries. My kids think they’d love to run free and wild all day long, but truly, they thrive most with routine and deep down. It isn’t easy to set boundaries and create routine: yes, we get dressed each morning; yes, sharing is a must; yes, you do need to finish your lunch before choosing a treat; yes, we wash hands. The reminders are exhausting. So, I’ll accept a dozen gold stars at least for this one.

Signing and turning in the school permission slips. Is your mind as full as mine? Too often the little things, like permission slips, fall through the cracks. When you don’t forget: GOLD STAR!

Being you/me. As my son told me last night as I tucked him in for the third time, “You’re the bestest mama bear in the whole wide world!” And he’s right. I am, because I’m trying. I’m trying really freaking hard and the gold stars for my effort are piling up because of it.

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