Sincerely, Shantelle

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Being a parent is tough. No doubt or questions about it. When our kids are born, we don't get a hefty parental guide or manual to handle virtually anything that goes wrong. Our parents didn't get one, either. Now, don't get me wrong, some people go out and purchase Dr. Karp's The Happiest Baby on the Block or Jane Nelson's Positive Discipline, but I'll be the first to admit that I'm not a book learner for practical life circumstances. I learn from hands-on experience and dealing with the nitty gritty. I have to be a mom, do some things right, and do others wrong to figure this thing out. If I need a little guidance on a case by case basis, what I do get is the internet—a necessary evil.
The internet is the place that has spawned many of my greatest momsecurities (tiny little insecurities that manifest themselves in the minds of moms—maybe even dads—temporarily). I've managed to feel guilty for a host of reasons: not teaching our daughter sign language when she was an infant, not teaching her a second language when she started to speak, not co-sleeping when she was a baby, not allowing her to throw tantrums in public, not feeding her only organic food, allowing her to have cupcakes before dinner sometimes, allowing her to use the iPad or TV as a distraction while I am busy doing homework or something get the picture. The mom guilt piles on for each and every blog post or article that comes across my timeline on Facebook about what I'm doing wrong and how to fix it. What? They aren't calling me a bad parent, you say? Yeah, right...ask moms and dads all over and I guarantee I'm not the only one who feels that way upon completion of reading "10 Reasons Parents of Today Are Failing Their Children" or whatever other listicle title you'd like to use in place of that one. If I am the only one...I guess it is confirmed that I am an alien (and I'm okay with that).

What I do know for certain is that I'm far from perfect, and I admittedly do a lot of things wrong. BUT, I also believe I do a lot right. Instead of feeling down in the dumps over those Negative Nancy posts that have the tendency to make us run in the other room and grab our child to "fix" something, I decided to sit down and come up with reasons I felt I was a great parent. I'm sure many of you share some of these, as well, so I decided to share the wealth. Here you have it: "6 Reasons I Think You're an Awesome Parent."

#1. Your child trusts you and you trust him/her.
If nothing else, I believe that a parent's most important duty in parenting is to prepare the littles for the real world and what life is like without mommy and daddy within arm's length. Trust building doesn't have to start when your child is a teenager and you're worrying about whether he's getting high with his friends or experimenting with sex. Trust starts at any age. Since our daughter was extremely young, I have trusted her. I have taught her about honesty and how it affects relationships. When she is dishonest, I let her know how badly that hurts my heart. When she tells me something that many children would have hidden, I praise her for her honesty and coming to tell me, even if she thought she might get in trouble. Building a trusting relationship with her also makes me feel more confident that if something were to happen to her that is inappropriate, she would be able to tell me. (I won't speak too heavily on that, as I'm not a psychologist, it's merely what I believe.) Our relationship has led to many positives. When she is feeling afraid of something, my reassurance helps her to believe that she doesn't need to fear it. We don't have locks or passcodes on the cable box because she knows what she is and isn't allowed to watch, and I trust her to use her best judgement. I can also take something away from her and leave it near, and she won't touch it because she knows she isn't supposed to. These are small steps, but I believe it lays the foundation for our future relationship. I trust her and she trusts me. I'm not saying we have to do the same things, but I believe that having an open door with your child makes you an awesome parent!

#2. You value your child's opinions as an individual.
One thing I am firm on in our home, is that our daughter is an individual. She is entitled to have her own opinions separate from ours—even at age seven! I have heard so many people say "you're a child, you don't have an opinion" or known those who have the whole "shut up and listen to me—the adult" mentality. Many believe that it teaches children to respect authority. I disagree that the relationship is founded as a respectful one. I believe that it is, instead, founded out of fear and "what will happen to me if I don't listen?" Even being given her own voice, I'll have the naysayers know that our daughter is very respectful. She doesn't run all over authority figures, including her parents. She knows right from wrong and is very vocal about it. She also knows that if I do something wrong, she can approach me and say "mommy that wasn't fair" or "that made me feel bad when I heard you say that." In fact, I encourage her to point out things she feels are injustices. Just this week she called me out on something I was incorrect about. I told her she was right, apologized, and moved on. When she grows up into a young woman and is long gone from the protection of mama bird, I will feel confident that my child is always able to stick up for herself. It's a cruel world out there. Arm your little ones with the tools to protect themselves!

#3. You embrace your child's differences and allow your child to express him/herself.
That green shirt doesn't go with those purple sweatpants? She wants to wear a pink flip flop with a purple one? Go right ahead! I don't think allowing a child to do trivial things differently than the average person is a bad thing. In fact, I believe it encourages creativity. As systematic as education has become and as much as the adult world expects conformity, I believe that children should be able to have a bit of fun. We jokingly call our daughter a weirdo when she does these things, but in all honesty, I love her even more for her creative, quirky flair! I feel that her ability to be bold and daring reflects the security that she has at home. She knows that at the end of the day, we love her for who she is and always will. She won't be allowed to dye her hair teal anytime soon, though ;)

#4. You teach your child self-love.
Teaching self-love is hard, especially when you struggle with loving your own self! I don't quite love the tiger stripes on my hips and butt. I don't love that no matter how much weight I lose, when I lean over, my stomach has the tendency to look like a can of slightly busted biscuits. I place a ridiculously large amount of effort in reminding myself not to say these things in front of my daughter. I don't want her to believe that these things make a woman "wrong." I want her to always love herself, even when she thinks someone else doesn't.
Once, she came home from a seemingly normal day in kindergarten to say that she wished she had different hair and "peach" skin. When I asked her why, she said that a student had laughed and said to her "haha, you're a black girl," in a negative way, implying that something was wrong with her skin color. Even at the age of five, she was able to pick up on his tone and take it to heart. It took everything in me to not bad-mouth the little boy (after all, he probably learned this at home), but I just told her that some people don't love themselves and talk bad about other people to make them feel the same way. I then explained that her chocolate skin and kinky hair is perfectly beautiful and our entire family has shades of skin from all over the spectrum—every single one of us is beautiful, too, and we love the way we are. She was able to say that she loves herself, as well. In order for this love to stay, I don't talk about how annoying I think my kinky hair is. I don't shame my body. I don't have an expensive beauty regimen. When my daughter starts to doubt the love she has for herself, I always want her to look at me, and not just hear, but believe that I love myself just the way I am, and I hope that her love for herself grows tenfold.

#5. You know that sometimes, a little indulgence is okay.
How many of us have had an extremely horrible day and needed a glass of wine or a cold beer (or two or three)? Maybe we needed to eat an entire tray of warm brownies or a dozen freshly baked chocolate chip cookies. Even still, maybe we decided that we wouldn't be doing the dishes today or anything else, for that matter. We all have these days—even the kiddos. We may not be young anymore (le sigh), but I'm sure many remember what it was like to have a friend declare that the friendship was over, or to have a friend move away and go to another school in the middle of the year. We know that these little hurts happen, and although the issues are small to us, they are often larger to the children. Allowing your child to experience having a bad day in her own way is okay. I'm not saying to allow your nine-year-old to eat a plateful of brownies every night in place of dinner because she keeps having bad days (in fact, I encourage you to consider counseling if your child is that sad ALL the time), but a couple brownies won't hurt every now and then. And no, this behavior won't contribute to the childhood obesity rate. Moderation people, moderation.

#6. You take care of yourself.
One of the most—I repeat—the most important aspects of being a good parent (in my own opinion, of course) is taking care of yourself. I truly believe that when we are not at our best, our children don't get our best. If we're too stressed, too tired, or too hungry and naturally lacking energy due to this, our children get a partial version of ourselves. Our daughter knows when mommy is having a bad day (they are inevitable and I make her aware of them), but I try to make sure that I bounce back as quickly as possible. Sometimes this is harder than other days, espcially since I suffer from depression and anxiety, but I make an intentional effort to change things. In order to keep myself in check, I try to do one small thing each day as self-care. I read an article (a positive one) or a few pages of a book, watch an episode of one of my shows off the DVR, eat a "secret" dessert, go for a walk, go to a store, paint my nails, just something for myself. I find that when I am usually the most overwhelmed, it's because I begin to lose myself in routine and begin to feel like I am just "mom." Being a parent takes a lot out of a person. It is okay to go the extra mile to take care of ourselves. The better we feel, the better we will be, and that inevitably makes us better for our kids.

*Disclaimer: I have no intentions on portraying or claiming to be a psychologist with this post. It started out as poking fun at posts that make parents feel bad and transformed into things I think I'm doing right. Feel free to disagree with me. They are merely my opinion. Just know that I am not stating these from a professional standpoint.