If I grew up feeling "not enough". Not outgoing enough, not thin enough, not demure enough, not good enough at math, not particularly extraordinary at anything.
I've spent most of my adulthood undoing that dialogue, learning to see my talents, love what is me, and work daily to improve upon myself and iron out faults, while still respecting that I am currently the best me I can be - and that is always 'enough'.
So last week something funny happened. I made a minor error and chastised myself in front of my children.
"Oh, I forgot! Gosh, what a dumb Mommy!"
I didn't think anything of it until my 4 year old daughter responded earnestly, "You're not a dumb mommy! You're the most perfect mommy ever!" Her face was crumpled up in deep concern, and her eyes gazed intently into mine as she spoke.
My 5 year old son had an expression of deep seriousness, as he interjected with, "Mommy, even though you made a mistake, you are NOT a dumb mommy."
Most perfect. Ever.
At first I brushed it off. They'd taken my self chiding too seriously. They didn't know just how imperfect I truly am, and someday soon they'll realize it and grow up to resent and despise me like all teenagers.
But then I stopped and thought some more.
Never in a million years would I have ever called my mother 'perfect', at any time during my childhood. Not because I am stingy with my compliments (trust me, I'm not), but because I knew, from a young age, that my mother was deeply flawed.
I don't blame her. She was processing deep wounds. But my childhood taught me about what NOT to do as a mother.
It taught me the importance of humility.
I am not perfect.
Not in the least.
I make mistakes on a daily basis. I'm less patient than I long to be, sometimes I raise my voice, and sometimes I have less energy than my children would like from me. But even as I'm in the midst of making a mistake, I know I'll be apologizing for it in 5 minutes or less. And I always do. I don't expect my children to see me as an infallible, unquestionable authority. In fact, I often remind my children that I'm still learning and growing too, and that I need grace and forgiveness for my mistakes just as I give to them.
My childhood taught me to speak to children like people, rather than subservients. It taught me to seek ways to encourage growth without lambasting what is still in transition.
And even though they drive me crazy daily, I pause in each day to remind them they are PERFECT in their own way, that mistakes are part of life, that they are enough, as they are, right here and now.
And I now I see, they are also a perfect reflection, mirroring unconditional love back at me.