Kathleen is a moving machine these days and seems to get into more things than the other two combined. In many ways she is like Cecily and Aneliese; a surprising combination of calm and crazy. By that I mean all of them have been/are very active in that they even as babies were seldom still after the initial quiet and cuddly newborn weeks. They aren’t babies or children who just snuggle in for long cuddles (unless we are reading stories) and yet, until now they have never really gotten into things. Boundaries have been fairly easily established as to what should and shouldn’t be touched, our houses have never seen or needed plug covers or door latches, and while anything dangerous or really breakable has been put up high, most things are freely played with or handled. I say until now because while it may be our lack of cupboard doors, Kathleen seems to enjoy pulling things out. It may be that I now have two older ones making little messes that are left around but I find myself scooping “treasures” out of her mouth regularly. She may be following the example set by her sisters, but she is pulling her self up on to things and attempting to climb sooner than I expected. I’m certain that she will tackle the stairs if I leave any where near them (I don’t).
I was told once that until you have had three children, any parenting advice or philosophy that you may offer is only theory, it hasn’t been tried and tested. So, now that I have three, I will be offering my excellent parenting opinions regularly…okay, maybe not. Really, I am kidding about offering advice but for myself personally, I have found that my parenting has been rounding itself out. I may throw people off with my confidence! Or maybe just myself.  I’m not sure when it happened but shortly after Kathleen was born, I stopped second guessing every-single-parenting-decision that I made. Perhaps because I didn’t have time to think about everything so much or possibly because just the fact that I had three little bodies which I was responsible for mustered up new confidence in me.

Now, before you start thinking that I think I am now super mama, the perfect parent, or have all the answers, allow me to assure that I have gained confidence, not become delusional. It’s just that sometimes  most of the time I felt like I was a time bomb just waiting to explode into a permanently mess up my kids disaster. I worried when I expected too much. I worried when I was too lenient. I wondered if I was expressing love the way they needed it. I thought perhaps I was too structured. But then, maybe I was too relaxed? Were my own personal struggles negatively affecting their childhood? I wondered daily if I was way off base on how I dealt with their personalities.  Was I demonstrating what it meant to be a balanced, contributing life? Did I have the parenting intuition to offer them what they needed to be healthy human beings?

The fact is that I think each of my questions and concerns were valid; I will likely ask myself them from time to time. I don’t have any doubt that there are many things that I can and should change or improve on. What has changed is that I own my imperfect parenthood. I don’t excuse myself on poor parenting and I don’t downplay the awesome task that I have in the lives of each of my daughters. I just know that I am deeply committed to being a mother and in that I walk confidently. I am committed to giving them the best that I can each day even when that best looks pretty low quality compared to other days. I also know that I know my daughters better than any book, philosophy or opinion ever will. I know when they need my hands gently holding their arms or chin as I speak to them (I daily remind myself that my hands must be gentle). I know when the very best thing for them in that moment is some alone time in their room. I am well aware that even if our kids make us look really, really good in public, our girls have, um, strong personalities (this really is a good thing). I know that sometimes the way I can best love them is to let them pick the unripe apples off the tree. I understand that no liking good bye isn’t being rude but is sad enough that she would rather just wave and call goodbye while they pull out of the yard. I know that there are times when I communicate clearly and fairly yet they still make a poor choice that requires follow through. I can see by the shutters over those brilliant blue eyes when my words have damaged. I know some things are great in theory, worked well when there were two but are unrealistic with three. I know when my well-researched philosophies on education need to bend a little because a little four year old is longing to play school with a teacher the way other kids do. I know that letting them choose their own clothes receives raised eyebrows sometimes but that they are growing confident in their individuality. I know the little unique ways that my girls like to be told that they are special and valuable and important. I know that they need to know now and always that I love them but that I also really, really like them. I know that while they don’t pray as I might have expected they would, they understand God in deep ways.

I know my daughters and I know myself. Yet, I still mess up. Every single day. I say that I am sorry and that I was wrong. I feel resentful that I have to referee another sisterly clash when they should just get along. Oh, I am far from perfect. And I’m not alone on my journey as a mama. I have shadows of good and bad that follow me. I have loads of healthy and wise advice from those who have traveled this road before me, from those traveling at the same time, and from those whose advice and opinions make it to print. And I walk each day with an equally committed and equally acknowledged imperfect (but amazing in my books) Daddy. Days are filled with breathed prayers asking for wisdom, sensitivity, love, and patience.  Friends, I’m not going to offer you parenting advice and I don’t really think that you need three to become a confident parent even if it seems that the third helped me turn a corner. I’d like to offer this if I may; own your parenting both the good and the bad.

Acknowledge the good and commit to improving the bad. Read and listen to others but know your kids and yourself. Let go of what you have to and cling tight to what you need to. And thanks. Thanks to each of you who has encouraged me along this road of life. May I also do the same for you when I can.