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One Thing We Should Tell Ourselves More Often

"Best mama in the world!" my 3-year-old announced the other day. Her eyes gleamed and her arms reached toward me.

My first reaction was to glance over my shoulder, attempting to locate this amazing mother my daughter was speaking of.

Because clearly, it's wasn't me.

I raise my voice too often. I'm on my phone all the time. I don't know how to cook.

My daughter's sweet, loving words sent me into a tailspin of All the Things I'm Not Doing Right.

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I don't think I'm alone here. If I had to choose one word to describe most of the parents I know, it would be "vigilant."

Dictionary.com defines vigilance as "keenly watchful to detect danger; ever awake and alert; sleeplessly watchful."

Before our children are even born, we research vaccines and circumcision. We eat well and swallow huge, iron-stinking vitamins. We talk and sing to the mystery babies buried in our bellies.

We sometimes push our bodies to their breaking points to give our babies a "good birth" or to breastfeed them. We rise out of sleep over and over to nurse our babies through the night, to pat their smooth backs or to let them cry through our stinging bursts of guilt.

Just for a moment, let's stop striving.

We keep up with the latest, ever-shifting list of foods our babies can eat. We read labels, books and studies.

We are ever awake and alert.

We talk to our kids—at length—about feelings. About their bodies. About how to stay safe, and how to be a good friend. We watch for autism, anxiety and ADHD.

When they patter over to us, wide-eyed, asking, "Mama? Are you ever going to die?" Or "Where was I before I was a baby?" we dig deep for answers that are age-appropriate yet honest. And when we come up short, we check with friends, books or the Internet, vowing to do better next time.

We nurture their passions, but try not to overschedule them.

We spend more hours playing with our kids than our parents did, even though more of us work outside our homes.

We teach our children about diversity and racism. We explain the variety of structures that families can take, and the continuum of gender. We try to tow the line of balance with technology, seeking the sweet spot between accepting, rejecting or abusing screen time.

We are sleeplessly watchful.

We coat them in sunscreen and spend hours outside, in the yard, at the beach, at the playground.

And yet, it still doesn't feel like enough. Even when our kids show us, like my daughter did, that I'm doing fine.

On the Internet, on the news and at the park, we are pummeled with information—with studies telling us we're ruining our children at every step. With Judgy-McJudgersons who glare down their noses at our mid-tantrum toddlers as we fly down grocery store aisles.

Often, it feels like we're damned if we do, and damned if we don't.

We are keenly watchful.

We are trying and trying and trying.

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Just for a moment, let's stop striving. Let's think of those moments when our kids toss their arms around us, when they proclaim us best mom or dad in the world.

Let's soak those memories in, and know, deep down, that we are doing so much right.

Moms and dads, that one thing we need to say to ourselves? "We are doing great."

Image via Unsplash

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