As a pediatric therapist, I feel so incredibly honored and thankful that I get to watch my sweet patients. As they learn, grow, change, and become strong, brave, independent little people. I get a front row seat to so many special events and milestones every one of my patients’ lives. But there are plenty of parenting hard times and Mama, I see you when it’s thankless.
Working in a field involving children
I have learned what it takes to raise and nurture these tiny people. As they grow into the incredible adults they’ll all undoubtedly become. It takes a very patient army to help our kids navigate the world we are living in today. I am amazed daily by my patients. But I can’t help but find myself enamored and awestruck. By the gentle footprints in the sand that their parents, grandparents, nannies, teachers, and other caregivers leave. Helpful reminders they can always use those to find their way back home if they ever find themselves lost.
Meeting a family for the first time
I like to remind my parents they are the experts on their child. I tell them, “You know their favorite foods, what color bowl they want their cereal in on a Tuesday morning, which book you read at bedtime, and which teddy bear to bring on a long car ride. You know what makes them tick, what makes them happy, and the many things they’ve encountered that make them scared or sad.”
At the initial evaluation, I simply request that I may join their tribe. That we can work together as a team to help put the (sometimes confusing and frustrating) tiny little pieces together. And hold strong as we see what the final puzzle has to say. I have had the honor of sitting alongside so many families as we celebrate their kiddos’ taking their first steps, saying their first words, eating something slimy for the first time, tolerating their carseat without getting sick, writing their first names all on their own, and so many other “little victories” that make my job so incredibly rewarding day in and day out.
But I’ve also had the privilege
To sit alongside families in the not-so-great times. We’ve sifted through the aftermath of getting kicked out of preschool (again), biting Grandma (again), taking their fine motor writing practice to the walls of the church nursery (in permanent marker), practicing scissor skills on a sister’s long, beautiful hair… This list goes on and on.
These moments, while challenging, are some of my favorites. These are the moments when the parents, once mere rocks on the sandy shore, are tossed into the waves of the ocean, encountering raging currents and enough pressure to ultimately reveal that they’ve always been diamonds in the rough. These are the moments they don’t write about in parenting books.
These are the experiences
We don’t talk about with the pediatrician. They are the times you will feel like you’re failing over and over and over again. And wonder how you woke up in this life you didn’t sign up for. They are the moments that feel like there’s no way you will make it to the other side, but then you do. You always make it out to the other side. What better lesson in perseverance and tenacity than to hold hands and face these storms together, with the audience of tiny eyes that are always watching. It’s not easy, but we do it. We don’t always talk about it, but I witness it.
So, I see you, mama. I see you papa, grandma, grandpa, nanny, teacher, and caregiver.
I see the tired eyes and unwashed hair. I see the shirt that’s inside out because life doesn’t always make time for spit up and popsicle stains. I see the daily grind, the chauffeuring, refereeing, and the many aspects of your job as a parent that often go completely thankless. I see the failures and victories, and the moments where you are so close to throwing in the towel but choose to give it your all instead. I see the 10 seconds of quiet bliss in the bathroom interrupted by tiny fingers under the door frame. I see you. I see you.
My sweet friend, a new mama herself, asked me how she will know she isn’t screwing up her kids. Simply put, I told her she won’t know.
I told her that she will actually probably screw up way more than she ever planned. But I told her that the mistakes build character (and also help raise interesting and funny adults) and that I have found there is really only one fail-proof approach to parenting, and that is this: love them.
Love them in spite of the messy house and writing all over the wall. Love them when they clear their plates and love them still when they refuse to eat their vegetables. Love them for both when they don’t get picked for the team and when they win first place. Celebrate the days that (almost) go as planned and forgive yourself on the days you crawl in bed with tear-filled eyes and the grace in knowing you can try again tomorrow.
Love yourself enough in the process that it teaches your children that it’s okay to love themselves, too.
Over the years
I have been blessed to work with so many wonderful families over the years, and each and every one of them is doing their best to fight the good fight and sometimes just make it through the day. But, at the root of it all, the happiest, most successful and joyful children I’ve ever encountered aren’t the ones with perfect parents. They are the ones who know, deep down to the heart of their core, that they are loved.
I see you, mama. Even on the days when your work feels invisible. ESPECIALLY on the days when your work feels invisible. You’ve been hired for one of the most difficult and most important jobs there is. And this is me, taking a small moment in the midst of the chaos, to say thank you. Thank you for showing up for your tribe, even when it would be so much easier to walk the path alone.