I’ve been a teacher for a decade. For ten years, I’ve helped students and parents navigate the constantly-changing world of education. I’ve been through many educational initiatives and adjusted my curriculum and teaching styles every time.
No matter how many times I’ve packaged and repackaged what I’m teaching my students, there has always been one constant: the need to foster a growth mindset in our kids.
For those who are unfamiliar with this educational terminology, the growth mindset is about adjusting your values. It shifts the focus from whether you pass or fail, to valuing progression. As a teacher, from time to time, I hear from parents about how they are frustrated that their child, “Keeps failing” or, “Just doesn’t get it.” While I understand this frustration, I have a different view from my side of the table. I try not to look just at numbers and focus on the snapshot in time; instead, I try to express to the parents where their child started and how far they’ve come. I try to share anecdotes of moments where their child has shown perseverance or when things have really clicked. I try to inspire parents to embrace the growth mindset and celebrate small victories.
The irony here is that when I became a mom, I forgot to take my own advice. When my son was tiny, I kept going and pushed through sleepless nights and difficult days, and I put all of my energy into making things right for him. I didn’t always get everything perfect, and I often felt like a failure. I forgot to cut myself some slack.
In the haze of being a “mombie” (mom zombie), I forgot that I didn’t know how to be a mom before I had my son. Literally, everything that happens in our family as he grows is new. And I didn’t have training for this.
Yes, I read magazines and blog posts about being a parent. I had first-hand experiences to things I considered to be “good” and “bad” parenting, but I had never been a parent until our son was born.
The sentiment that “Everything changes when you have kids” is no joke. Your relationships change, your house changes, your habits change, and your sleep patterns change. Being a parent changes your body and your mind.
The honest truth is that my son is now over two years old, and I’m still learning all the time. My son is learning how to be a person, and I’m learning how to parent this new person. Every. Single. Day. And it’s important work. As he learns how to take his shoes off and put them back on, or how to brush his teeth, actual chemical changes are happening in his brain. My husband and I, as his caregivers, are constantly reminding ourselves to cut him some slack. He doesn’t know how to do this yet, I tell myself when he loses his temper. He’s testing the waters. But what about me?
I frequently read about women trying to find themselves again after becoming moms, and I’m right there with them. My life, my personality, and my circle of friends have all changed. I know this. But somewhere along the line, I forgot that I’m testing the waters, too. I’m learning how to do this whole parenting thing, and try as I might, there is no handbook that I can find that works for me 100%. It doesn’t exist because every child is different- and every mom is different and every family is different. Sure, I can read or watch something and find parallels in my own story, but no one knows my child like I do. And for that very reason, I need to remind myself that having a growth mindset towards myself is important.
It’s time for me to stop putting so much pressure on myself for not always knowing how to be perfect.
If I can cut my son some slack as he grows and learns, I can do the same thing for myself. I don’t always know what to do, and I don’t always get the right answer on the first try. It’s time to apply what I’ve been telling parents about the growth mindset for a decade: to be proud of where we were and how far we have come together. Growing up is a journey, and I’m on this journey with my child.