by Renee Brown
When you are in the upheaval of parenting, the days, weeks, months, and years become a fuzzy, cotton-candy-spun collection of moments and memories. The days can feel like they are long and tedious–full of homework to check, paperwork for the doctor’s office, and shopping to provide food for the house. But sometimes you might stop to wonder if you have good parenting skills (whatever that means). You may even wonder: am I a good enough parent?
We may not stop every day to think about how to be a good parent, but we continue to show up, every single day. We provide proper nutrition, appropriate clothing, and opportunities for sports and the arts. Every day we work to give our children the best this world has to offer. And on top of it, we know that downtime is crucial, so we arrange many a moment that is nothing more than hanging out, playing endless rounds of Uno or Candy Land. We are investing into our children because it has an incredible ROI.
And yet, sometimes it just doesn’t feel like enough.
I get goofy thoughts in my head sometimes that I am neglecting certain opportunities for my boys. When I’ve decided that today is a stay-in-our-jammies day on a snowy February Saturday, I’m content with my decision until I see on Facebook that someone is having a family outing at the Science Museum. Then I second-guess what I know to be the best for my family, even though as a single parent, just getting to Saturday was a monumental feat and I needed a day at home. I still worry. I worry that I am not doing enough. Being a good enough mom. Being enough in the absence of their father.
But if I have learned one lesson in this parenting game, it’s that everything always works out.
Now that my boys (whoops, make that young men) are 18 and 19, I’m really seeing the fruits of my hard labor. Where I once saw loud, scrappy, messy boys, I now see mature, responsible, hard-working men (still messy though).
This summer the three of us drove to Lincoln, Nebraska, where we lived for five years when the boys were in elementary and middle school. These were trying yet beautiful years, full of adventure, newness, and growth for all of us. We had some time to kill on the afternoon that we rolled into town, waiting for friends to get off of work. We drove by the two houses we lived in, the schools the boys attended, our favorite swimming pool and Sonic Drive-In.
But it was the dog park that my oldest son wanted to visit right away. To be clear, we didn’t have a dog, but that didn’t matter because this park was huge and had a wooded area that dogs rarely traveled into. Back in the day, my boys spent an enormous amount of time there exploring, crossing the creek, falling in the creek, blazing new trails. Being dirty, sweaty, stinky boys. I followed my sons that day grinning from ear to ear, because these were their glory days, this was their freedom-filled youth. These were their favorite memories and those memories had required nothing from me. Not an enriching afternoon at a museum, not a lesson on impressionist art.
The boys told me stories about their adventures at this dog park that I never knew, and every story made me even happier. I was able to see, all these years later, that it all was good. I gave them the best I had at the time and guess what? It was enough. It made them who they are today–strong, loving men. What I gave them was enough.
The recipe for success, it turns out, was to teach them what I knew and then let them learn the rest–trusting my maternal instincts to know when to let them out into the world just to play. And it turns out, my best was good enough parenting.