"But Mom, you said you were going to make me eggs for breakfast!" "Mom, my project was supposed to be in a shoebox, not a box from Amazon!" "Dad, why couldn't you be at my baseball game?"
Parenting doesn't come with a manual, but it does come with plenty of expectations, and guilt (especially for moms) is par for the course. There's always something you could be doing better or more of. But there is hope, even in this era of upping-the-parenting-ante.
Here are just nine signs you're doing better than you think as a mom or dad:
1. Your children are polite
After hundreds of prompts telling your children to say "please" or "thank you," they actually say it. You might be shocked one day at the grocery store when a kindly older woman in line behind you hands your child a sticker, and his response is an unmistakable "thank you."
2. Other people compliment your children
One mother noted a text message from a Scout leader saying that he "appreciates her child and his calm, helpful attitude in an otherwise chaotic group of boys."
3. Your children do get along with each other - at least sometimes
It's a pleasant surprise and definitely rewarding when another mom sees her "oldest taking care of his younger brother instead of being mean. I can see he truly loves his brother, and when it matters he will protect and stick up for him."
4. Your children generally are happy
Good parenting (note the adjective here isn't "perfect") shows in children's countenances. They might throw fits occasionally at home or at the store when they're tired, but overall, they're really happy and well-adjusted. It usually takes someone outside your family noticing it to remind you that's true. But it really is.
5. Your child tells you "I love you" or "thank you"
Your 8-year-old may be running out the door to play with his neighbor buddy and turn around and yell out "I love you!" Or your preteen daughter might be taking a rare moment to snuggle with you when a "thank you for all you do for me" pops out of her mouth. Treasure up these moments to help you through the tougher ones.
6. Your inner mama bear emerges when it's needed
Perhaps another child is bullying yours, or there's a situation at school that isn't fair and can be corrected. You march down to the school and, harnessing the power of the bear, speak your mind in a straightforward but civil way and see results.
7. Your mom or another older woman you admire says you're doing great
To hear that your reaction to a situation, your feelings of guilt, or of being overwhelmed, are perfectly natural from someone who's "been there" can go a long way toward helping you feel you're not failing.
8. Your child helps out with an extra chore without being asked
When you have a to-do list a mile long and your teen son says, "Mom, let me go fill up the gas tank for you," or your middle-schooler offers to do the dishes, without any prompting, you've done something right.
9. When your kids grow up to be outstanding individuals
Children eventually grow up. You survive through sleepless nights of infancy and the terrible twos all the way through the teen years, and they make it to adulthood. They go off to college, they get jobs, and they marry. You feel your heart skip a beat and your face light up with a smile when others ask you how your kids are doing. You're still not done being a parent, but you find it's all been worth it.