Parents are doing something right

When parents criticize themselves for making mistakes, it's helpful for them to make a list of what they think they are doing right. 

Rachel Stafford/Hands Free Mama
In this undated image, posted on the author's blog, a mother an daughter hold hands.

“I must have done something right,” the father of a 19-year-old young lady was telling me after having fixed my troublesome garage door.

Although his daughter had drifted a bit during her early teen years, she was now coming over to her parents’ house on the weekends and was genuinely enjoying spending time with her parents again.

The repairman’s eyes lit up when he talked about the renewed relationship with his daughter. He seemed relieved about how things had turned out.

“I must have done something right,” he had said a few minutes earlier.

My oldest daughter is 10. I don’t want to wait nine years to know whether or not I’ve done something right. Because now is when I need to hear it.

Now – when I am in smack dab in the middle of raising her.

Now – when I feel the pressure to examine every choice I make, wondering how these choices will affect her now and in the future.

Now – when I want to trust my gut and live by heart rather than simply go along with mainstream opinion or “expert” advice.

Now – when I need little glimmers of hope to cling to each day.

So I decided not to wait.

Each day for the past couple of weeks, I’ve been looking for a little rightness—a little what-is-right-in-my-world.

Notice I say “a little.” What I am talking about is practically unnoticeable. It’s hardly noteworthy. And it’s definitely not anything worthy of public sharing – at least not according to societal standards. But that’s why it’s working for me. That’s why it’s encouraging to me. Because looking for what is right in my world – in my day – in my hour – is far more encouraging than looking for what is “right” in my world according to social media, societal standards, or popular opinion.

I invite you to take a look. Maybe this list will inspire you to see what is right in your world today.

Right in my World

I took her to the “free” cake decorating class even though I knew nothing is truly free.
 I took her to try on jeans. Lots of jeans.
 I took a deep breath when I felt like I might explode.
 She took my hand as we walked across the parking lot and left it there a good long while.

I’m doing something right.

I gave her a backrub when the couch was calling my name.
 I gave her a second chance and she used it for good.
 I gave her some help cleaning up that disaster of a room.
 She gave me a happy-to-see-you-smile when I came to pick her up.

I’m doing something right.

I sacrificed sleep so she didn’t have to suffer in the bathroom alone.
 I sacrificed my socks because her feet were cold.
 I sacrificed a golden opportunity so she could see my face in the audience.
 She sacrificed a bite of her ice cream cone without telling me, “Not too much, Mom.”

I’m doing something right.

I offered to be her excuse if she wanted to leave the party early.
 I offered to walk beside her if she needed company.
 I offered to stay up and listen awhile.
 She offered heartfelt forgiveness when I admitted I messed up.

I’m doing something right.

I encouraged her to try.
 I encouraged her to see beyond her outer surface.
 I encouraged her to use her voice even if it trembled.
 She encouraged me to let down my hair and have some fun—and we laughed ‘til we cried.

I am doing something right.

I brushed away the nightmares.
 I brushed her hair softly despite our rush to get out the door.
 I brushed up on my tech lingo so I could keep up.
 She brushed past, but then came back for a hug.

I am doing something right.

I let go of yesterday’s disaster and chose to live in today.
 I let go of the to-do’s and accepted her “come and look at this” invitation.
 I let go of the need to control.
 She let go and began to soar.

I’m doing something right.
 I’m doing something right.
 I’m doing something right. 

 Tomorrow, I will try a little more.

So that is my list of what’s going right in my world these days. What I see as “right” now may not lead to society’s definition of “you did something right” later. These small signs of success certainly don’t point to future scholarships, academic or athletic achievement, power, fortune, or fame, but they do point to what really matters. I see signs that she is a kind and caring individual, that she is discovering her voice, that she is making wise choices and when she doesn’t, she owns her mistakes, that she’s taking risks, and finding she’s okay even when her attempts don’t work out as planned.

But there is more.

I have discovered something about my list of “rights” that relieves a lot of the pressure I often put on myself. And that is this: perhaps even on the days I don’t get it right, my child is still learning valuable lessons about life, persistence, determination, independence, failure, compassion, grace, and forgiveness. Maybe even when I am not getting it “right,” it doesn’t mean she’s going to turn out all wrong.

[Insert collective sigh of relief here.]

My daughter still has a long way until age 19, but yet with each passing day, I feel her getting older. The hugs don’t come as often. She doesn’t need me as much as she did before. But every once in awhile, she’ll walk up and just lean against me without saying a word.

And I take it – I take that rare opportunity to wrap my arms around her and revel in that divine moment of rightness, where there is no future or past, where my mistakes and her blunders fall away, where we hold each other and know everything’s going to be OK.

Because in that sacred moment, we know we don’t always have to get it right, me or her.

And yet, all is right in our world.

The Christian Science Monitor has assembled a diverse group of the best family and parenting bloggers out there. Our contributing and guest bloggers are not employed or directed by the Monitor, and the views expressed are the bloggers' own, as is responsibility for the content of their blogs. Rachel Stafford blogs at

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