I was the perfect mother. I mean, anyone could be—if they just read the books like I did and maintained a schedule like I did. If they had boundaries with their children. If they stood their ground . . . If they would just work the system, they could be perfect like me, too.
I had the parenting thing all figured out.
That’s what I thought after I had my first child, Lilah. She was, by all accounts, perfection. She slept through the night at six weeks. She took several long naps throughout the day. She would smile at strangers. Use her manners. Perform on cue.
I was the perfect mother.
Until I had my second child, Ezzy.
Ezzy has lived most of her life in a state of constant need.
Ezzy was never full.
Ezzy loathed sleep.
Ezzy shoved her face in my neck if anyone tried to talk to her.
Ezzy would permanently affix herself to my hip, if possible.
Ezzy was the complete opposite of her sister.
Ezzy made a liar out of me. The truth was out: I was a terrible mother.
When Ezzy turned two, she started crawling out of her crib and running around our house in the middle of the night. We spanked. We redirected. We locked doors. We cried. We begged. We pleaded.
But nothing worked. She didn’t sleep and we didn’t sleep. And it made everyone miserable.
I remember one night about three months into Ezzy’s sleepless season, I had just put her back to bed for the third or fourth time that night, and I was at a breaking point. I felt raw and empty. I had read about a hundred blogs, consulted books, called and texted friends, but no one had the magic password that would make my child SLEEP.
As I listened to my baby cry for me in her room, tears slipped down my face. Why won’t she sleep? I screamed internally. What am I doing wrong, here? Why can’t I get this right?
And somewhere in between sobs as I paced in front of her door, it hit me.
I was going about this all wrong. Not just the sleeping issue, but parenting in general. Because the truth is, parenting isn’t something you get right or wrong. Parenting isn’t a math problem or an English essay. Parenting isn’t a popularity contest or a war of wills.
Parenting is a relationship.
As I sat in the dark hallway crying, all the wonderful things about our Ezzy flooded my mind.
Ezzy has an incredible sense of humor.
Ezzy is truly brilliant.
Ezzy’s voice is so precious and sweet—it melts everyone who hears it.
Ezzy has charm for days and days and days.
Ezzy is passionate.
Ezzy is loving, tucking in her babies every night, and kissing them on the cheek.
And, after a painful miscarriage, Ezzy is the baby I had prayed and prayed for.
It’s easy to get on Instagram and Facebook, and start handing out grades.
Another vacation without kids? F.
Dressing your kids in matching Easter dresses? B+.
An elaborate Pinterest project? A.
Dinner out again? C.
And, in turn, we grade ourselves, too—each challenge we face with our kids deducting points from some cosmic parenting score.
This way of thinking is so destructive. We are not any other parent. If our child needed another parent more than they needed us, God would have given our children that parent.
You are uniquely wired to meet your child’s needs. And those needs you can’t meet? Those needs are reserved for their heavenly Father.
Does Ezzy sleep? Some nights. Some nights she doesn’t. But it doesn’t feel like failure anymore—it feels like a phase. A phase in the most important relationship your child will ever have.