I bought bouncy balls for my son’s class treasure box. Something nice for the teacher, a simple way to show my son what it means to give back. A simple way to show him how much extra teachers do for their students.
Plus, it was a good excuse to go a little crazy in the Target dollar section.
So I took him to the store and let him pick everything out. We picked out basketball bouncy balls and soccer ball bouncy balls and pink bouncy balls and some that were just plain blue. This morning, he informed me that he is really hoping for a basketball.
My initial reaction was to text the teacher and ask her if she could hold one for him. After all, he helped pick them out, so he kind of deserves to get the one he wants, right?
But then the other half of me thought “No, you’d better not. He needs to learn to be happy with whatever he gets. He needs to learn that you get what you get and you don’t throw a fit. And you don’t need to be interfering in his life anyways.”
So this back and forth went on like a ping-pong ball inside my mind for a solid five minutes.
And then it dawned on me: This. This is why moms are so exhausted. Yes, we chase kids. Yes, we clean up after them like the guy scooping up poop behind the horses in the parade. But I don’t believe that’s the true source of our exhaustion. I believe it’s this dance, this teetering back and forth between trying to walk this very, very fine line of what is right and what is wrong. What is black and what is white. What is good for our kids and what is even better.
When you have a baby, you walk this fine line and you worry about whether breast milk or formula is better, about whether your baby needs Pampers or Luvs, about whether to keep your baby in the room with you, or let them sleep in their own crib. Every decision is as delicate as that precious baby you are holding gently in your arms.
When you have a toddler, you walk this fine line and you worry about whether or not to start them in a Mother’s Day Out program or to keep them at home with you. You wonder whether screen time is really going to destroy your child for life like all the articles say, or whether one (or four) episode/episodes of “Paw Patrol” is fine. You also have to get the laundry done, and you can’t do that with your 2-year-old hanging on your leg. So back and forth, back and forth — you begin the process of wading through the mud to find what is best.
Not what is good. Good’s not good enough. You need to know what is best.
And then they throw a tantrum in the middle of the cookie aisle at Kroger’s. Right there, with everyone watching, waiting, wondering how you’re going to handle it. Right there in-between the Oreos and the Chips Ahoy. Will you yell? Will you give in? Will you be too hard? Will you be too soft?
When you have a school-aged child, you walk this fine line and you stress about which school is best for your child. Again, this is your child. This is their education. The weight of your decision is heavier than a two-ton elephant sitting on your chest spraying water out of his trunk. This decision will go with them forever, so there is no adequate. There is no fine. There is no good enough. There is only what’s best, and it’s all on you to find it, like Waldo, only if you don’t find it, you can’t just turn the page and move on, you’ve basically ruined your child forever.
When you have a teenager, you walk this fine line of letting them still be a kid, and pushing them to become an adult. This fine line of going crazy and trying to keep your cool. This fine line of taking everything they own away and tossing it out the window of your two-story home and understanding all the changes puberty is putting them through. This fine line of being the adult who doesn’t put up with disrespect, and this friend who will come and pick them up if they’re at a party, starting to feel uncomfortable.
And then there’s the fine line of who to put first: your children, your spouse, or yourself. You can make the case for all three. You can easily argue all three sides.
No wonder we are so exhausted. Our minds are a maze. Our lives are a juggling act. Our jobs are trying to find the black and white in a world full of muddled gray. Our jobs are trying to dance the tango and the waltz and the Boot Scootin’ Boogie and the Macarena all to the same bizarre song.
No stinking wonder.
I don’t have a ton of advice here, honestly. I’m not an expert. I’m right in the middle of the mess with you, my friends. We are mothers and we will always want the absolute best for our children and we won’t stop until we find it, even if that means mulling every decision over by digging through a giant haystack of articles and advice until we find the dadgum needle our children need.
I can only tell you this: you’re doing a good job. You’re doing a hella good job.
You wouldn’t care so much if you weren’t.
You wouldn’t worry so much if you weren’t.
You wouldn’t be walking that fine line like Johnny Cash if you weren’t exactly what and who your kids needed.
They’re going to be fine, and so are you.
Sometimes you’ll miss the mark, sometimes you’ll be off by a few feet, or even a few hundred.
Apologize. Forgive. Get back up and keep going, keep trying. Keep trying to tiptoe across that tightrope. Keep trying to balance your way through motherhood. Keep trying to do the things that are the very best for your children.
In trying, you’re loving them in a way that will make a loud difference in their lives. And I promise, that love will be the thing that carries them over the threshold from happy childhood to successful adulthood.
That love will be the thing that makes the most difference, not whether or not you call the teacher and ask her to set aside the basketball bouncy ball. Not whether or not you make your own almond milk, buy organic milk, or buy the cheapest milk you can find in bulk at Sam’s Club.
Love walks the fine line, and you’re doing it. You’re doing it better than you know.
Originally appeared on Amy Weatherly
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