I recently opened up to my fellow Boston Moms writers about the fact that I’ve been feeling inadequate about the work I put into my youngest child’s academics. One of them said to me, “You’re doing great, mom!” And I have come to realize she was right. I am doing great, and everything will be alright.
I am the mother of two wonderful children. My oldest is 9 (and a half!) and my youngest is 6. The youngest is in first grade and is a unique individual with countless amazing qualities and skills that are different from those of her older sibling. And I have been judging myself because I do not seem to manage to find the time to sit down and practice reading, writing, and math with her as much as I did with her brother. At least that is what my inner critic would have me believe and berate myself about.
(And FYI, we all have these pesky inner critics. So if you thought it was just you, that’s not the case. We’ve all got ‘em.)
So when this sweet and supportive friend told me I was doing great, I wanted to believe her. But deep inside, I thought, “She has no idea what it’s really like in my house, and she’s just trying to cheer me up.” I had been hearing the parents of my child’s classmates talk about how well their children were reading. I had seen posts they’d shared showing their children’s writing! I knew better. I knew I was not “trying hard enough” to ensure my child was advancing.
But still, my friend’s words stuck with me and did not leave my mind. And I’m so thankful they stayed.
Because I am doing OK — and maybe even great!
For the next few days, when my friend’s words kept visiting me, I started noticing little things here and there that proved her right. And it all started happening without me trying too hard or digging for clues. Little by little, I started getting sudden jolts of information and evidence that I was, in fact, not failing and that I was doing just fine by my daughter.
Here are a few of the things I noticed that calmed my anxiety and helped me realize everything would be alright:
- My son has always gravitated toward academics. I didn’t necessarily do much with him to practice reading, writing, and math. In fact, he used to despise writing and grew right out of that in less time than it took me to get over my anxiety about it!
- My daughter is extremely smart, even if she is not reading at the level I THINK her classmates are reading at. She is resourceful, intuitive, clever, and so much more. She is not her brother, and she is also not behind. She actually teaches me at least one life lesson every day.
- Her teacher has not expressed concerns. I have created concerns in my head because I have judged myself for not making more time to practice with her. Might some classmates be ahead in their progress? Sure. But that does not make them or their parents better. They are all unique, and their lives are not the same as ours.
- She was in preschool when the pandemic started! Why am I expecting her to be reading and writing like a pre-pandemic first grader would be?
- She loves books. She looks forward to library day every Tuesday at school. She picks a book or two for me to read to her every night. Sometimes we read together and take turns.
- And the kicker, especially given that I thought I was failing her when it came to her reading? She told me recently that her favorite time of the school day is READING. Reading is her favorite! Books are her favorite! I HAVE NOTHING TO WORRY ABOUT.
We do this to ourselves so often, and we don’t need to. We all need a friend to remind us that we are doing great… and we need to believe her.
So, this is me telling you, mama, that YOU ARE DOING GREAT. Everything will work out, and you are doing enough. Now I hope that idea stays in a corner of your mind and visits you whenever the clues show up so you don’t miss them!