Military Parent: Are You Enough?

group of women holding babies
(Gloria Montgomery/DVIDS)

Hey Must Have Military Parent --

I see you out there.

Feeling overwhelmed. Not sure what to do. Not confident that one person can meet all those needs.

You wonder how can you be everywhere at once, everything to all those little people? How can one person do all that work? How will you know the right things to do? The right things to say? The right times to do and say them?

You've felt that way since the moment that nurse put that baby in your arms -- scrubbed clean, with that perfect little head snug in that tiny blue and pink striped hat, wrapped tight like a crescent roll, and not much bigger than one, either. That baby just stared up at you with those confused, navy blue eyes and that tiny, quivering lip, and trusted that you would get it right.

The weight of the responsibility bore down on you then like an express train, and you've doubted yourself ever since. You have wondered, constantly, if you are enough.

Since that first high fever.

Since that cut that required stitches.

Since that first bad report card.

Since the day you realized your child was different than the other kids and would need extra help. And how would you find extra to give when you already felt like you didn't have enough?

Most of all, you have doubted yourself since the day you and your partner decided that what was best for your family would mean that you'd be doing most of the parenting alone.

Were you up to this challenge? Would you have enough energy, enough wisdom and enough patience? Could one person really do the work of two? How would you avoid making a huge mess of it all?

You wonder still if you're doing it right, if you will even know if you are doing it right. If those times you've lost your cool were really as horrible and unforgivable as they seem. Will those be the memories your boy carries into his own family? Will those be the examples your girl follows with her own child?

You wonder if this strategy, or that expert, or that book you didn't buy has the answers. Should your child be exposed to lessons and sports, or will over-scheduling do more harm than good? Will your picky eater's growth suffer for not downing the broccoli, or will dinnertime power struggles ruin the sliver of remaining peace in your home? And how much time are you allowed to hoard for yourself? Any? The answer is obviously not "most,” and not even much of "some,” not anymore.

I see you out there, Must Have Parent, going about your day, your week and your solo parenting year. I see you snap at your child in Publix. I see you texting while you're stopped next to me at the intersection, ignoring the fighting kids in your backseat. I see you on the sidelines at the soccer game, enjoying a conversation with another parent — and missing the moment when your child scores a goal.

I see you dragging the kid with the messy hair and the mismatched outfit late into school. Again. I see you, still in your pajamas, pulling that trash can out to the curb with only seconds to spare because you forgot to set it out the night before. Again.

I see you having a bad day, being rude to the McDonald's cashier. I see you giving in and buying that candy bar just to make the screaming stop. I see you struggling, struggling, struggling.

I see you -- embarrassed, frustrated, defeated.

I see you and I want you to know that you're doing okay.

Maybe you're not doing great, at least not everyday. Hey, you're human. You screw up. But you're doing good. You're getting it more right than wrong. Your kids are going to be fine, as fine as anyone else's.

And how do I know that?

Because I know that you care and I know that you try.

You've read this column this far because something here feels relatable, something seems to apply to you. You're reading this because you need some reassurance, because being a good parent matters to you. A parent who didn't care would have no interest in reading a parenting column. You're still reading because you care and you try.

I know that if you care and if you try, you will hit your mark most of the time. You won't hit it every time, and those misses will be excruciating, but you'll hit it more often than not.

Must Have Parent, you are giving it your all -- and your all is more than enough.

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