I wish there were a rulebook that came with babies when they are born, but there isn't. There isn't even a rulebook for one set of moms versus the other. The only thing that is certain about motherhood and parenting is that there is no hard and fast set of rules other than, "Do your best to not hurt your child and keep him/her well cared-for."
Other than that, it's all up for interpretation. What you think is the right way to raise one child may be the wrong way to raise your second child or someone else's child, or vice versa! We all think we are doing what is right for our kids but the reality is we may not really know how "right" or correct we are, until our kids are up and grown from our homes, showing us how they "turned out" as adults.
I think the hardest lesson I personally needed to learn about parenting (so far — yes, the chapter isn't closed . . . I am still in the early childhood to elementary years, and is it ever closed?) was that I don't really know all the answers and that sometimes you have to test things out and watch for the results.
That I can never be perfect as a mom, but I can be "good enough." That in parenting, there are rarely any A+'s and far more B's and C's. Sometimes even D's and F's — but we try. We try for that A, time and time again.
That as a single mom, I can constantly feel as if I am not doing enough for my kid and think how perhaps things would be different if I were married and not doing it on my own, but that the married mom next door could feel the same way — that she is not enough. That if she could only do X, Y, or Z, she would be better.
The perfect mother.
That sometimes you can make every effort to do things right, and still, your kid might struggle.
That you can fight so hard to protect your kids from heartache but still, heartache will reach right out and zap them even when you're there metaphorically and literally trying to shelter them from pain.
That a kiss on a boo-boo can't cure it all.
That no matter how much our world has changed, there will still be some people who will ostracize or judge your kid based on class, race, gender — and then some.
That as a mom, I am not a superhero, but just another person with a whole lot of love to give my one special girl.
When you first get pregnant you envision what motherhood will be like, but it's not until you are in the trenches with that sweet newborn that you realize:
I don't know what I am doing.
And that is OK.
I can't have all the answers. I can do everything from step 1 to step 5, and still mess up. I could check off every mark in the book and do everything I am supposed to as a mom and somehow, something may get messed up.
And that is OK.
The hardest lesson I have had to learn about parenting is that sometimes things won't be great for ourselves and for our kids, and it's OK.
We are doing the best we can with what we have, and in the end, that's what really matters. Not the checkbook plan and list of to-do's that we crossed off and thought would make life peachy and perfect. Just the fact that even when things are stormy in our kids' lives and our own, that we are there trying anyway, just skating by, being "OK."
It's all that matters.