Take a second and look at those words. I am proud of you. Did you hear it a lot as a kid, as a teenager, as a young adult? If so, when did you hear it? If not, did you fight to hear it? How did it make you feel?
If you did hear it a lot or often anyway, it probably felt pretty good. You felt like your family accepted you and loved you and you were achieving a lot. Hearing it from that special loved one was the best feeling too!
If you did not hear it a lot, you really fought for approval. Kept on trying to do things that would lead them into saying it. And when you did hear it, it was few and far in between. And sometimes even secondhand.
I fell into the latter category. The approval I was seeking was my father’s. He barely said it to me when I was growing up, even when I did things that he should be proud of. Like when I learned violin and stuck with it for 10 years.
When I went to college in two different states at three different schools to finish my bachelor’s degree, I think I did hear it. Not to belittle that moment, because it was a great feeling, but that is a huge moment for someone. And it’s a typical moment for a father to be proud of his daughter.
I have since stopped seeking anyone’s approval. I hear those words from my husband a lot because he loves me and loves seeing me thrive. He sees the little moments and the big moments. I have an amazing group of women who cheer me on from out of state. They say those words to me all the time. My best friend tells me all the time. My almost brother is always there cheering me on and lets me know too.
I try to remember to say it to W, even in small everyday moments. I want him to grow feeling like I am his #1 cheerleader and I am proud of him, even if the event is miniscule. After dance class, I tell him I am proud of him. When he does something daring like climbing at the park, I tell him I am proud of him. When he picks up a broom at home to clean up a mess and I didn’t ask him to do that, I tell him I am proud of him.
It is hard for someone who did not hear it often growing up to say those words to another person. It is hard for me to remember so I have to remind myself that it is something positive I can say to him. Growing up in a household that lacked communication skills all around it is hard to accept the big feelings of a two year old.
By becoming a mother after being a nanny, working in schools and being a Pre-K teacher, has taught me patience on a whole new level. It is so hard when W is having a bad day when I am having a bad day. It is me who snaps, not him. It is me who yells, not him. He is two. I am 33. He is going through development. I am healing past traumas while being triggered by his big feelings.
Motherhood is a hamster wheel that we jump into and start running. There’s nowhere to go but around and around and around. Somehow we survive on lack of sleep, feeding the baby, work stress and now pandemic stress. All while comparing our imperfect lives to other’s lives who give the impression of perfect.
So, mama, I am proud of you. I am proud of you if you went to work after a long night of breastfeeding the baby. I am proud of you if you dealt with a million tantrums today and snapped at the toddler. I am proud of you if you went out into public and you’re uncomfortable doing that alone with your little one. I am proud of you if all you did was roll out of bed this morning and kept your kid alive.
I am proud of you, human mama! You can do hard things, we all can!