This past weekend, our plans fell through. We were supposed to meet up with a group of friends, but after waking to a text chain notifying us that our friend’s daughter was sick, we found ourselves suddenly faced with a free Saturday evening.
I wasn’t going to complain. The thought of a night of nothing actually sounded pretty incredible.
My husband and I went back and forth. What would we do with our newfound freedom? Play some games? Go out to dinner? Work on some projects? The possibilities felt endless. And exciting.
In the end, a night of carry-out Chinese food and old family movies was the winner.
After gobbling up plates filled with sweet-and-sour chicken, crab rangoons, spicy beef, and other delicious dishes, we took our full bellies into our bedroom and piled all six of us onto the king-size bed.
My husband attached the old video recorder to the television, and suddenly, we found ourselves face-to-face with videos we hadn’t seen in years.
There they were. On the screen. My babies.
It took my breath away.
I could hear the sound of their baby squeals, laughter, and sweet, little, high-pitched voices. I could see the roundness of their toddler cheeks. And watched as they walked to and fro on wobbly, unsteady legs.
I was suddenly transported to a different time and place. One that seemed so long ago and at the same time, like it was yesterday. I remembered. Vividly.
The videos were mostly of our oldest two, now 13 and 11, with a few of their 9-year-old sister sprinkled in. Our youngest was not in these videos and lost interest after about 30 minutes of seeing his sisters toddle around on the screen.
The rest of us were held captive.
I said to my husband, “I remember the feel of those PJs. The smell of their skin. I can remember what it felt like to hold them. And rock them. And carry them.” He agreed.
I found myself wanting so badly to be able to reach out and touch them and their littleness one more time. I wanted to take them into my arms and hold them tightly to my chest. I wanted to feel the softness of their skin and press my nose onto the top of their heads as I inhaled the sweet smell of baby shampoo.
But that time has passed.
As we watched the videos, I was struck by something deep in my heart. So many of the videos were of my husband and I sitting and enjoying our children. Videos of them eating. And playing. Walking. And talking. Reading books. Dancing. And Singing.
“Will you sing Twinkle, Twinkle for us?”
“Catch the ball! You can do it!”
“Can you say your ABCs?”
“Look at her eat those bananas!”
We were engaging. And they were responding.
I remember all of those years of self-doubt. Am I being a good mom? Am I teaching them? Are they learning? Do they know how much I love them? Am I spending enough time with them? Am I enough? Is this enough? Am I doing a good job?
Yes. Yes. Yes.
For a moment, as much as I wanted to reach in and touch them, I also wanted to reach in and whisper to the young mom on the screen: you are enough. You are doing enough. You are doing a good job. God made you to be their mother. Trust in Him. Trust in who He made you to be. Stop beating yourself up. They will be OK. You’ve got this.
As I watched the video and thought of these things, I found myself saying out loud, “I remember this so well. I wish I could give those little babies a hug.” And my daughter said to me, “You can. I’m right here.”
And my heart melted.
Yes, those years have passed, but there is so much treasure to be found in the now. I was reminded, as I watched these videos, of the joy that comes from sitting and being present and engaging. Of the closeness that comes from asking questions and waiting for responses.
I may no longer be asking them to recite the ABCs, but there are so many other things to ask. Big things.
“How is your heart today?”
“Do you know how much you are loved? By God? By your father? By me?”
“What is happening at school? How are you doing with your friends?”
“How can I pray for you? Can we pray together?”
I was also reminded that I am a good mom. And it’s time to embrace that truth and stop the negative self-talk.
Am I enough? Yes. God gave me these children to raise on this earth. He made me to be their mother. I am enough.
Is this enough? Yes. I am doing the best I can. I trust God will fill in the spaces where I am lacking, and He will fill their lives with mentors, good friends, and family members to help shepherd their hearts as well.
Am I doing a good job? Yes. I am trying. I love them with all of my heart. Will I mess up? Absolutely. But that’s okay. We all do. I once remember a friend saying, “If you were a bad mom, you would probably never ask if you were a good mom. Don’t you think?”
I think she was right.
I woke up the next morning with a fresh perspective on my children and my parenting.
They are getting older, and while they no longer need me to feed them and keep them from getting hurt like when they were younger, they still need me to sit with them. And to engage them. To ask them questions. Hug them. Applaud them. Love them. Enjoy them.
And to trust in myself as their mother.
Because one day, these moments will also be memories being played back on a video. One day, these years of elementary school and middle school will turn into years of high school and college. One day, they will be on their own.
So I will hold them. And hug them. And love them. Because I can. Because they are right here.
I will take it all in. And store it in a special place in my heart.
I will trust in my parenting.
I will thank God for these ordinary moments that make extraordinary memories.
I will thank God for making me their mother.