It’s 10:30 at night and I should really be sleeping. I should probably be a doing a lot of things but I learned a long time ago not to should all over myself. I read that once and it struck me funny, that expression of “shoulding all over yourself”. I had actually forgotten about it and had a bad case of the shoulds recently. Shoulding all over ourselves makes us feel downright, well, crappy. We don’t feel adequate because we didn’t do whatever someone thinks we “should” have done. We feel guilty because we took a minute for ourselves instead of doing what we feel “should” have been done around the house, at work, at church, at school, wherever. We don’t enjoy the delicious foods we do eat and skip the chocolate cake we want to eat because we “should” eat a salad. We aren’t happy because we “should” be more effective, able to do it all, happier, better. By shoulding all over ourselves, we snuff our light right out. We beat ourselves down. We become tired. We become frustrated. We become hassled, harried, discontent. Our sometimes unrealistic expectations of what life “should” be like and how we “should” be handling it are like a weight around our necks, dragging us down and sucking out our joy. We should ourselves right out of happiness.
When we spend time thinking about the things we “should” be doing, we are devaluing what we actually ARE doing, which is usually a lot. The worst part is that when we get in the habit of shoulding all over ourselves, the shoulds start spilling over onto our children. We begin to think about what they “should” be, rather than celebrating what they are. As a mom of busy, loud boys, I often find myself shoulding on them as I observe other families. Instead of appreciating their sense of adventure and boisterous love of life, I find myself thinking my boys “should” be less rambunctious and quite a lot quieter. I think it goes without saying (but this is the internet and you may not know me personally so I will say it) that there are certainly standards of behavior that need to be adhered to, and there is definitely a time and place for certain things. I’m not referring to those things (of course my kids need to act appropriately in the store, and I hold them to the expectation that they will not swing from the rafters like spider monkeys in the middle of Walmart). I’m referring to the general personalities of our children. This “shoulding” on our kids often happens when a child does something unexpected or doesn’t meet our expectations, even if they are age appropriate. For example, my then 5 year old son was super excited to play soccer. That is, until he got to the soccer field, where he most often refused to set foot on the field and when he did, often devolved into running after other kids with his dinosaur claws out yelling “ROAR”! This is terribly funny to me now, but at the time I was mortified. WHY wouldn’t he play like the other kids? WHY wouldn’t he join his friends? WHY was he acting like a total whackadoo? Um, he was 5 that’s why. You may find yourself feeling that your child “should” be more outgoing, less shy, more active, less active, a better eater, whatever. These “shoulds” become our wishes upon stars. We expend energy on wishing our children were different instead of recognizing that while they may not be the same as other children, they are just as they were meant to be.
I watched a movie recently that really made me think, charting the course for this post. That’s why I was writing at 10:30 at night instead of going to sleep. The movie wasn’t what I expected but it was exactly what I needed. I was expecting a comedy about moms, and 6 minutes in I texted my two good friends because I was laughing so much. This mom was living my life on screen! I could literally feel her pain. It was funny because it was real. But the movie went on and touched on just the right nerve for me. It got so so SO real. I don’t know whether you pray or not, but I do. I pray about being a mom a LOT. I pray and I beg God to help me do it better. To love better. To respond better. To do better. To be better. I spend a LOT of time “shoulding” all over my parenting at the end of the day. A LOT. You may be familiar with this line of thinking: I should have said this; I should have done that; I should have been more attentive; I should have been more assertive; I should have done it BETTER. In something so simple as watching a movie, God finally showed me the answer that I have been searching for. I don’t need to do it better; I just need to do it. I may need to do some things differently, but THE MOST important thing is that I wake up every morning and be there for these children that He gave to me. Watching those moms on screen, all at different stages of parenting, all going through their own struggles and all feeling inadequate made it painfully clear and simple. The overall message of the movie was YOU ARE ENOUGH. I know, kind of cliché in these times, but a message that is so true and so often lost.
So I’m here to remind you not to “should all over yourself”, especially as a parent. Whatever you did instead of those “shoulds” is ok. It’s ok that you said no to volunteering this time. It’s ok that you didn’t get the laundry, dishes, sweeping, whatever done. It’s ok that you spent some time reading/walking/sleeping/ sitting/whatever instead. It’s ok that you got take out tonight to save your sanity. It’s ok that you skipped baths just this once. We get so caught up in the frenzied pace of life that the little voice in our head starts in with the shoulds the second we deviate from our normal hectic routine. But guess what? You will be ok. Everything will be ok. YOU get to decide what you and your family need, not someone else and certainly not someone else’s expectation of you. YOU are the one. And YOU ARE ENOUGH.