When You Get it Right … and When You Don’t

what's right 2 handsfree mama

“I must have done something right,” the father of a nineteen-year-old young lady was telling me after having fixed my troublesome garage door.

Although his daughter had drifted a bit during her early teen years, she was now coming over to her parents’ house on the weekends and was genuinely enjoying spending time with her parents again.

The repairman’s eyes lit up when he talked about the renewed relationship with his daughter. He seemed relieved about how things had turned out.

“I must have done something right,” he had said a few minutes earlier.

His oldest daughter is nineteen. My oldest daughter is ten. I don’t want to wait nine years to know whether or not I’ve done something right. Because now is when I need to hear it.

Now—when I am in smack dab in the middle of raising her.

Now—when I feel the pressure to examine every choice I make, wondering how these choices will affect her now and in the future.

Now—when I want to trust my gut and live by heart rather than simply go along with mainstream opinion or “expert” advice.

Now—when I need little glimmers of hope to cling to each day.

So I decided not to wait.

Each day for the past couple of weeks, I’ve been looking for a little rightness—a little what-is-right-in-my-world.

Notice I say “a little.” Because what I am talking about is practically unnoticeable. It’s hardly note-worthy. And it’s definitely not anything worthy of public sharing—at least not according to societal standards. But that’s why it’s working for me. That’s why it’s encouraging to me. Because looking for what is right in my world – in my day – in my hour – is far more encouraging than looking for what is “right” in my world according to social media, societal standards, or popular opinion.

I invite you to take a look. Maybe this list will inspire you to see what is right in your world today.

Right in my World

I took her to the “free” cake decorating class even though I knew nothing is truly free.
I took her to try on jeans. Lots of jeans.
I took a deep breath when I felt like I might explode.
She took my hand as we walked across the parking lot and left it there a good long while.

I’m doing something right.

I gave her a backrub when the couch was calling my name.
I gave her a second chance and she used it for good.
I gave her some help cleaning up that disaster of a room.
She gave me a happy-to-see-you-smile when I came to pick her up.

I’m doing something right.

I sacrificed sleep so she didn’t have to suffer in the bathroom alone.
I sacrificed my socks because her feet were cold.
I sacrificed a golden opportunity so she could see my face in the audience.
She sacrificed a bite of her ice cream cone without telling me, “Not too much, Mom.”

I’m doing something right.

I offered to be her excuse if she wanted to leave the party early.
I offered to walk beside her if she needed company.
I offered to stay up and listen awhile.
She offered heartfelt forgiveness when I admitted I messed up.

I’m doing something right.

I encouraged her to try.
I encouraged her to see beyond her outer surface.
I encouraged her to use her voice even if it trembled.
She encouraged me to let down my hair and have some fun—and we laughed ‘til we cried.

I am doing something right.

I brushed away the nightmares.
I brushed her hair softly despite our rush to get out the door.
I brushed up on my tech lingo so I could keep up.
She brushed past, but then came back for a hug.

I am doing something right.

I let go of yesterday’s disaster and chose to live in today.
I let go of the to-do’s and accepted her “come and look at this” invitation.
I let go of the need to control.
She let go and began to soar.

I’m doing something right.
I’m doing something right.
I’m doing something right.
Tomorrow, I will try a little more.

So that is my list of what’s going right in my world these days. What I see as “right” now may not lead to society’s definition of “you did something right” later. These small signs of success certainly don’t point to future scholarships, academic or athletic achievement, power, fortune, or fame, but they do point to what really matters. I see signs that she is a kind and caring individual … that she is discovering her voice … that she is making wise choices and when she doesn’t, she owns her mistakes … that she’s taking risks and finding she’s okay even when her attempts don’t work out as planned.

But there is more.

I have discovered something about my list of “rights” that relieves a lot of the pressure I often put on myself. And that is this: Perhaps even on the days I don’t get it right, my child is still learning valuable lessons about life, persistence, determination, independence, failure, compassion, grace, and forgiveness. Maybe even when I am not getting it “right,” it doesn’t mean she’s going to turn out all wrong.

{Insert collective sigh of relief here.}

My daughter still has a long way until age nineteen, but yet with each passing day, I feel her getting older. The hugs don’t come as often. She doesn’t need me as much as she did before. But every once in awhile she’ll walk up and just lean against me without saying a word.

And I take it—I take that rare opportunity to wrap my arms around her and revel in that divine moment of rightness …

where there is no future or past …

where my mistakes and her blunders fall away …

where we hold each other and know everything’s going to be okay.

Because in that sacred moment, we know we don’t always have to get it right

Me

or her

And yet, all is right in our world.

what's right handsfree mama

****************************************

Thank you, Austin, Texas, for another amazing turnout at my most recent book signing event. Today’s post was inspired by two beautiful people I met that night who looked in my eyes and told me their difficult truths. For the person who thought it was too late and the person who felt too overwhelmed, I want you to look for what is right in your world. Just one little thing. It is there. Start with that.

Atlanta, it would thrill me if we could have another tremendous turnout for my final book signing event on March 6th. RSVP here.

With the incredible response of my book, HANDS FREE MAMA, I have had the wonderful opportunity to share more insights and details about my Hands Free journey. Contained in the following interviews are some details about my journey that you might find helpful and inspiring:

Inspirational Woman 2014 for The Skinless Project: Rachel Macy Stafford (More Than Skin Deep) – click here. 

The Happiest Home by Meagan Francis: Kitchen Hour Podcast with Hands Free Mama – click here. 

Hands Free Mama Tells You How to Power Down for Your Kids for Parents Magazine click here.

Thank you for leaving your thoughts, ideas, struggles, and triumphs in the comment section below. I am grateful for this supportive community, my friends of The Hands Free Revolution

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Comments

  1. 1

    says

    I am truly loving your blogs ( I know I am not the only one ) … I am coming to them with older children and seeing them from another point of view. I have been writing on my blog about teens/tweens and helping them find a healthy lifestyle and a lot of that deals with self-confidence , and you blog is setting up the younger kids to have that already!! So keep up the awsomeness that you are !!! And let me know if I can some insight into how to help the older ones deal with self image , media and friends…. ugh!!

  2. 2

    Lori says

    Rachel, thank you for your posts. I have your book, love it!!! I seek out your posts every morning with my cup of coffee before getting my 4 girls off to school. I have tour only love today bracelet. Thank you for your beautiful messages, they really help and inspire me. I can relate to them, real life that helps this mama of 4.

  3. 4

    says

    I love the message behind your blog. Anything we can do to cut through the chaos to find the stillness is a healing experience for families.

    I also love the idea of taking stock of where your kids are glowing and where they might be dulled, and in need of some polish. We all hear that being a mother is a thankless job. I don’t believe that. I believe that the “thank you” comes in the form of pride, joy, laughter, and seeing your kids grow into people you respect.

    As for the parts in need of polish, I have realized that seeing our kids as reflections of us helps us see to the heart of the matter a lot more quickly. In that way, everyone grows and learns together.

  4. 5

    says

    Hi Rachel,

    Thank you so much for all of your posts, and you book. Your ideas and the way you convey them so beautifully speak to me and have helped me become a better parent. I was wondering what is you take on Amy Chua’s parenting method? When I read this article:

    http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052748704111504576059713528698754

    I immediately felt so much rage and sadness. I try my best not to judge other parents, but I feel she is abusive to her children in the guise of wanting “success” for them, measured solely in terms of academic achievement and financial success. Would love to hear your opinion.

    Thanks again for making this world a more loving place.

    • 6

      Missie says

      Interesting. I think I’d be exhausted parenting that way! While I don’t agree with beating a child down just to build them up, one thing did resonate with me. My husband is a HS math teacher at a school consistently ranked #1 in the state. I can’t tell you how many emails he gets from parents blaming everyone BUT the child for a bad test score. I do think we “Western” parents need to hold our children accountable for their failures.

  5. 8

    courtney says

    Thank you for this most beautifully written article. I had a quiet moment this morning, which I don’t get often with four kids, but maybe God knew I needed it so I could read this. Brought lots of tears streaming down my face because I wonder this all the time, am I doing anything right and everything wrong. Having 3 girls, 10, 7 and 6, I doubt myself everyday whether I know if I’m getting it right especially with my pre-teen but then just like in your article the other day she just came up out of no where and gave me a hug, this I took notice and enjoyed it in my moment. Thanks for the beautiful reminders and encouragement you give.

  6. 9

    Ranee says

    Rachel, I want to thank you for all the blogs. They give me a daily reminder on the precious and most meaningful things in life (time and laughter with my kids). Thanks for all the encouragement you give to each mom out there!!! In my current situation I worry about whether I am being a “good” mom and I doing what is right for my kids. Your words and blogs are showing me I am on the right track and how to lead them in a direction that only betters our relationships!

  7. 10

    says

    Wonderful reminder! I love that you emphasise that the little successes each day may not necessarily be the most obvious things, but they can still be successes. I am finding it takes a lot of practise to notice those positives each day, but if you can learn to, it’s so worth it.

  8. 11

    Jenni Taylor says

    I don’t know how I stumbled upon your blog at Christmas time but I am so glad that I did. I am a single woman turning 34 next week and even though I don’t have any kids of my own, I am finding your blog very inspirational. Over the past 15 years, I have struggled with balancing work, friends, and family and found myself rushing from task to task. The email notifications for your blog post always seem to come in just when I am struggling with similar doubts. Like I said, I don’t have kids, but I want to live a Hands Free life with the friends and family I currently have in my life and someday with my kids. Luckily, I met a wonderful man six months ago who has taught me to slow down and smell the roses. Thank you for being brave enough to show us your weaknesses so that we can see that we are not alone in our struggles. With the inspirational message you give each time, I can see that even if I fail to do the right things today, I can learn from my mistakes and be better tomorrow.

  9. 14

    southafricanmama says

    Thanks for another reminder of what really matters. Your perspective helps when I reach the end of yet another day with not a single item crossed off my swelling to do list due to the demands of parenting my two young girls. Perhaps I’m just putting the wrong things on that list!! What an inspiring blog you write.

  10. 15

    says

    Your font color – grey/silver on white is nearly impossible to read. (old people). I was able to highlight the main part which turns the text white on black, but some of the side blurbs don’t respond so well to that trick.

    JIM

  11. 17

    Yadi Unrein says

    Dear Rachel,
    I have read your book in one month’s time. I can’t begin to tell you all of the blessings that your words have encouraged in my life and the life of my family. So just a glimpse….my youngest tells me I’m the “best mama in the whole wide world” everyday, when before she would act out all day to get my attention. My oldest and I are closer than ever, which is good timing with the stage she is in right now, 6 going on 18. I make time to really listen to my husband and have real conversations and meaningful family time.
    One of the greatest blessings was the time I carved out for our aging family dog. He had been my friend and confidant pre-family, through college, and starting our family. We took impromptu walks in the snow late at night just he and I. I had really made a fuss over him this past month. I am so thankful I heeded your advice in your book and blog because, my faithful furry friend and pal died last week. I want you to know, that because of you, he was not shoved to the bottom of my list his last days with us. Thank you so much for carrying out the mission that God put on your heart! I am thankful for a chance to do it right over and over, even when I get it wrong. Whenever I apologize for my mistakes out loud my youngest quickly replies with,” That’s alright mama, we all make mistakes.” Then she reaches for my hand which is free thanks to you. Your Fellow Hand Free Mama in training, Yadi Unrein.

  12. 18

    says

    Rachel, I love this collection of small things you’ve brought together! I often get so focused on the ‘big goals’ that I forget to notice the everyday things that go right. The other day, for example, I opened up to a new friend about a problem that was weighing on my mind. It sounds like a small thing, but so often I think it isn’t okay to ask for help, that I have to just deal with problems myself and not ‘bother’ other people with them. It took a leap of faith to tell the truth — that I wasn’t fine, that I was obsessing over something –but she responded with compassion and wisdom, and it was such a relief not to have to carry the weight of the issue alone.

  13. 19

    Missie says

    Last week I was telling my mom how unhappy I was about yelling all the time. Sometimes I just snap! She asked if my kids dreaded me coming home, like we did with my dad. Nothing was ever good enough for him and I find myself often behaving the same way. (cringe) She asked if they thought I was hard to live with. So I asked my 10 yr old son that evening what he thought. He looked at me like I was crazy! Of course I wan’t hard to live with! WHEW! And even when we’ve had a bad day, he still grabs me tight for a bedtime hug. No grudges held. The other night at dinner he said “I love my life!” So I guess I am doing something right! Love trumps all and he knows that I love him like crazy.

  14. 20

    says

    Rachel,
    I love the fact that your postings arrive in my mailbox last thing of the day (I live in Brittany, France!) – I stay up to read them, then go to bed with a lot more love and tolerance for myself – kind of like a huge hug from life telling me ‘it’s okay’.
    Morgane

  15. 21

    Gretchen says

    thank u, i love this post n truly needed to be touched by these words. im a truly single (family-less), harried, fulltime working mpm of an incredible, precious handful of a boy. He just turned 4 last week and im turning 46 this week. love the Doing Something Right message Bless You

  16. 23

    says

    Rachel, I love this! I am always wondering if I am “doing it right” and am I going to screw up my kids? I love how you comment on how our kids gain things as well from the times we aren’t doing things right. It is so true and inspiring to hear. I am going to keep my own list – than you for the inspiration!

  17. 24

    Scarlett says

    Thank you for this wonder blog. I truly enjoy reading blogs and comments about parents who try and do the best for their children. My brother and his wife have three kids: 12 year old girl, 9 year old boy and 7 year old girl. They asked their oldest not long ago if she was happy. My sister-in-law said that she looked at her a bit confused as if was a trick question but after a while she said: of course I am and I will be even happier if you get me a tablet (my quotes are not working). She has always been a spunky girl, and they never want her to lose that. She is a daddy’s girl, and she shares a love of sports with her dad and a love of animals and reading with her mom. They tell her and their younger children how much they love them every single day. They are such happy kids and I tell you that my brother and his wife are role models for me as parents along with my oldest sibling.

  18. 25

    Melissa says

    Rachel,
    Is Denver on your list? If not, know that your honest truths about parenting have made a positive impact here in Colorado. Your openness and honesty are exactly the reminders I need that I am doing it right! This morning I almost took over a shoe situation from my 5 year old son. I stopped and he tied his shoe for the first time 100% by himself! Big Win that I got to watch it happen second Big Win I stopped myself from hurrying and third Big Win: we were not late to our destinations this morning! So glad I stopped to let him grow a little this morning, what a confidence booster for him! Sending you so much love and gratitude for being you!

  19. 26

    Natalie says

    I SO wanted to come to your Austin book signing. In fact, it has been on my calendar ever since you announced the date. Sadly my husband had a small car accident the day before the signing, leaving us with one car. I was very disappointed to miss it, but maybe I’ll be able to come to a signing at some other point. I love your blog and your book! Every day I get to spend with my now 5 month old is a miracle, it’s easy to see the “something rights” now, when I’m his whole world, but I know they will be harder to see as he needs me less and less. Thank you for this.

  20. 27

    shelby mayor says

    I have a 12 year old and an 18 year old. I feel the years slipping away so fast, and I have been trying to force myself to enjoy these boys because they are growing so fast. I find myself nitpicking at the oldest, because I want him to do well, but I lose sight of the fact that he IS doing well. working, on track to graduate with only taking 5 classes, and yes, he has some faults but MAN, I need to appreciate him. nobody’s pregnant, nobody’s on drugs, nobody drinks, and he respects our rules. my youngest is very driven and determined. sometimes that translates into bossiness, but I also have teachers telling me that he is so driven. they never have to remind him to get things done. he excels at sports. he has so much going for him. I work with kids who are not so blessed in the behavior department. this goes a long way in helping me appreciate mine.

  21. 28

    Lorri says

    One of the best pieces of advice I was given while learning to parent a very strong willed daughter almost 25 years ago was “Catch them doing something right and praise them for the GOOD things they do.” There were so many days when it was really hard to find even one small thing. I think we are equally hard on ourselves as parents, but I’m so glad you are able to see the many things that you are doing right. They may seem small to you, but they are making an indelible impression on your children’s hearts. Although I am currently in the blissful life stage between grown kids and grandkids, your posts often move me to tears for the many things I did wrong while raising my sometimes difficult daughter. I have already bought a copy of your book to present to her when she becomes a mom, and a heartfelt letter will accompany it to let her know that I wish I had been the kind of mom you are. It was so hard as a single mom raising a kid alone, and “hurry” was just always the mode we were in. I’ll never get those times back, but perhaps I can encourage her to make better memories with her own kids. Thank you for sharing your life so honestly with all of us – you are changing more hearts and lives than you will ever know. Wish I had gotten to meet you in Austin – hope you’ll eventually turn up in the Dallas/Fort Worth area so I can thank you in person!

  22. 30

    says

    Another awesome and inspiring post, lovely as always, thank you. My son’s just two, so I’ve a long way yet, but he gives me these little confirmations and joys too.

  23. 31

    says

    Rachel, that is Beautiful and inspiring! Thank you. I need a lot of education and inspiration about how to be the kind of Dad that my kids need; I tend to be distant and negative. But I love the little moments when I get it right…

    The other night, my 12 year old daughter rejected all my suggestions of movies for our family to watch, and seasoned the rejections with a dash of attitude. I picked up on the attitude, and because I’ve been learning about attachment from Gordon Neufeld (http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=vqzI5yvA-iA) I had an idea about what to do. When I went to give her a goodnight hug, I told her I want to make special time to do something with her this weekend. We talked about a few things we might do, and she went to sleep. The next morning as I was sitting on the couch, she came over and sat close by my side and chatted comfortably. The connection was precious and sweet.

    I see there aren’t many men commenting on here… I hope they are ‘lurking’ and paying attention!

  24. 32

    Jill says

    Thank you for the great post. As a mostly stay-at-home-Mom and previous career woman, I find I don’t have (and often miss!) the regular positive feedback I used to receive in my job – happy clients, positive performance reviews, ongoing feedback from bosses and peers. After reading your blog, I have started to notice the little things my kids do to tell me ‘that I am doing something right’ – extra kisses, forgiveness when I have made a mistake, laughing together, etc. Thank you for letting me see that my efforts are rewarded in many small but important ways with my kids.

  25. 33

    Shavaun says

    Thank you. For all the times I’m always trying to get it,” right”, and forever feeling failure. This reminds me to find that one special something each day and to let that be enough. Thank you for the reminder.

  26. 34

    says

    I cannot tell you enough how much I love reading your posts. Nowadays, with such a busy lifestyle that I lead (like every mom I know) there are very few blogs I have signed up to receive updates. I love yours as they always ring so true and your heartfelt honesty , empathy and beautiful words of wisdom always strike a cord with me.
    Thank-you!

  27. 35

    Fallon Arnold says

    I am truly inspired by your ability to be so open and honest about motherhood. You are putting into words what I feel most mom’s are going through, but none of us are brave enough to say it out loud. You are helping me so much to slow down and live in the moment, but to also recognize my wrongs and admit my mistakes. I know that this is a slow process, but I am not giving up, and God willing; I am going to get there. I cannot wait to read your book! Thank you so much!

  28. 36

    Kathy says

    What a wonderful post! I found you by way of Katrina Kenison, author of The Gift of an Ordinary Day and Magical Journey. My son is 23 and my daughter is 21. We took the time to do what you are doing now. My daughter definitely succumbed to peer pressure in the later high school years. It is very difficult to compete with friends! We are starting to see her coming back to us, making better choices. I hope with the good foundation and values we instilled in her she will find her true happiness and confidence in who she has truly been all along. I can’t wait to catch up reading your blog! I am going to buy your book and when I am done I am going to give it to my brother who is a full time single custody to his son and daughter, aged 14 and 11!

  29. 37

    Michelle says

    My daughter is 24 now and I can relate to this article completely. I got so many of the big things wrong but I did a lot of little things – as mentioned above – correctly. It was not always 100% intentional but my choices with some of these “small” things were conscious decisions. I am experiencing the pleasure of seeing my beautiful daughter find her own way on this world without bending or bending to what society and culture deem as correct. Thank you for the affirmation and I hope that I can offer you, through this brief comment, a glimmer of hope for things to come. Stay on your path. Your daughter is writing, unconsciously and deep in her heart, the freedoms that you are offering her and she will love you all the more for this.

  30. 38

    Susan H says

    It’s nice to think about what you are doing right instead of always concentrating on your mistakes! Love your blog.

  31. 39

    dilys says

    When I was little, I tried making the bed at my grandma’s house. She could do it so quickly, so neatly. I wanted that, I wanted to be like her. I tried and tried but it sure didn’t look anything like the bed she made. She found me crying over it, and when she found out why I was crying, she looked at that mess of the bed and said, “The bottom corners are tucked in neatly, and you put the pillow in exactly the right place. Here, let’s each take a side and pull the wrinkles out.” And we did. When I was older, I heard her say often, “People can learn as much from what they are doing right as from what they are doing wrong.” And I believe that. Right along with Richard Bach’s “Argue for your limitations, and, sure enough, they’re yours.” Just other words for saying, “Only love today.”

  32. 40

    says

    I have a short story I thought might help you here. I’m a 25 year old woman, working on becoming a midwife myself, inspired almost entirely by attachment parenting/baby wrapping.
    ————————————
    When I was 10, my mom and I were close, had been, as Dad had been gone for who knows how long… she says, “You’ll never ever ever hate me, right Sarah? You promise right?”
    To which I replied, “Oh my GOD how I can you even SAY that? Mom I love you! Of course I promise I promise!”

    By the age of 12, I was plotting my escape.
    By the age of 16, I ran away from home.
    By the time I was 19, my mother and I were working out our differences with one big new rule: no secrets, no lies, no judgments. I will be who I will be, you will be who you will be.

    Today, at 25, turns out those two things are pretty close to the same. She is my best friend. I speak to her every day. She is my rock, my guardian, the woman I am most thankful for — she gave birth to me and contributed most to who I am today. Now I see. Now I know.
    I give this story to you now ’cause I know I, at least, am scared for those inevitable teenage years. Mine were obviously a bit extreme but…dayum.

    The end point is? It was all those rights that got us through, and the only reason things were so crazy is cause we were so much alike (See: Hard headed, stubborn, independent, intelligent, and a little sassy) and teenagers brains go all crazy sometimes.

    Thank you for this.

  33. 41

    says

    My kids have only been part of our family for eighteen months. They are 7 and 9. I have been parenting minimally all month–the month that started with my father dying and my husband losing his job, then continued with a cycle of earaches (kids) and sinus infections (adults) that has been grueling. Tonight I was, again, collapsed on the couch, unwilling and unable to pull it together and make us a meal. I told my son, “You can fry some eggs if you want,” and his face lit up. I hung out and supervised a bit, but mostly let him do the whole job. Then I told my daughter she could “cook” waffles (the frozen kind). Even though I really just wanted to get back to my couch, I pulled a chair out to the kitchen and sat with her–her on the counter by the toaster oven, me using the stove top as my table–and we put yogurt and jam on our waffles. The fact that they were both willing and able to cook a simple meal–I must be doing something right. The time I spent with my little one enjoying our waffles–I must be doing something right.

  34. 42

    says

    I did a lot of things right, invested so much time into all of my children (a lot of time homeschooling them) but it hasn’t paid off with all of them. I barely speak to one son. There are no guarantees, but it does make you feel good to invest the time in the now.

  35. 43

    says

    “Maybe even when I am not getting it “right,” it doesn’t mean she’s going to turn out all wrong.” I am going through a divorce, so all I can say to this is, man I really, fervently hope so.

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