Monday is my grocery day.  It has been for years.   But it’s MONDAY, as I mentioned, so things are usually crazy, cranky and chaotic. I barely get the kids to school without losing my mind or doing the demon-mommy arm grab while talking through gritted teeth, then I bring Asher home and let him have a little Curious George time while I menu plan and list create.  I have about 30 minutes to do the list, grab my cash and my re-usable bags (I live in Oregon, people) and head out the door.  I can do my shopping and get back to the school for kindergarten pick up, then bribe the younger two with some snack from the store (that we surely ran out of last Friday) while I put the groceries away.

Have I mentioned I hate grocery shopping?  Just do not like it at all.  Especially with kids.  Bless them.  But I hate it.  In the summer when they are all home, I often go at 9pm rather than take all three.  No matter how I prep them and myself, create elaborate “help mommy” games and put my creative parenting hat on, 99% of the time it ends in tears and whining.  And that’s just from me.

My youngest is notoriously NOT good at sitting still for longer than 30 seconds.  So taking him shopping is almost as frustrating as all three.   I am just used to it being an exhausting 40 minutes, with him whining and yelling and grabbing things off the shelves and climbing out of the cart, me buckling the buckle and him immediately unbuckling it.  (Locks and buckles are a joke to this child!)  In his defense, he is an energizer bunny and it’s got to be boring as hell for his active body and mind to sit in that cart doing the EXACT SAME THING we did 7 days ago and not getting to swim in the lobster tank or sift through the bulk food candy like he wants.

This last Monday was no exception, and as we checked out, I did my usual juggling act of bagging my groceries, calling out instructions to Asher (“Sit down please.  Hands in.  Please sit down.  Put the bread back.  Put the bread back in the cart.  PUT THE BREAD BACK IN THE CART.  We don’t throw.  No throwing.  Play with your toy! You have a fun toy!  Don’t throw the toy.  I have to take the toy now.), and walking back and forth between him and the food.   Then he tried to crawl out of the cart again, but he got stuck and started to scream in pain.  I dropped my food and ran over, trying to figure out where he was wedged between hip/knee/ankle/toe and try to calm him down.  It took about 10 seconds, which felt like an eternity.  He was crying sad tears, and so I cupped his face and quietly told him I didn’t want him to get hurt and he needs to SIT DOWN IN HIS SEAT.    Life with this kid is a loud whirlwind, so it honestly wasn’t anything extra crazy or stressful, just normal crazy and stressful.  I was irritated, but didn’t freak out.  Yeah, me!

But I don’t think I realized how high-strung I was until the older woman on the other side of the bagging lane just picked up her groceries and smiled at me, looked straight in my eyes and said “You’re a good mama.”  And she left.

And hot tears started streaming down my face.

It’s not that no one has ever told me that.  Dear people in my life have encouraged me.  But it’s just in the bone-weary, day-to-day work of pouring into these little guys that sometimes it feels a little bit like a losing battle.  It’s so much easier to notice how I’m failing to live up to the mom I want to be than it is to notice the times when I actually AM the mom I want to be.  Maybe it’s also that my measure of success is pretty skewed.  If my children’s behavior and my level of inner peace and calm is the barometer for “good mom” then it is quite rare for me to achieve that coveted label.

And I know I’m not alone!  Fortunately I am surrounded by honest moms who express many of the similar struggles to live up to our own ridiculous standards.  Most of us admit that at least one or more of our kids are in really challenging, exhausting seasons.   Over coffee and muffins and park benches and juice boxes we talk about how crazy we are about our kids, how we never knew a love could be so strong it physically hurts.  But we also admit it’s harder than we thought.  We don’t want to mess up these precious lives.

So when that lady in Winco rocked my world with those four little words, I thought: It’s so simple.  We need to be told we are doing well.  We need to tell each OTHER that we are doing well.  I want to notice small ways that the mamas in my life are pressing in to their children, doing hard work when easier is an option, and continually striving to be molded and crafted into the mom our children need us to be, the mom God has created us to be.   The other moms in my life do things differently than I do–we make different parenting choices.  But we ALL are doing the best we can to love and guide our kids into healthy, well-adjusted, kind people.  And we need all the encouragement we can get.  So today I make a promise to be better at telling those in my life:

You’re a good mama.