As a kid, all I ever wanted to be, was a parent. So, I watched the parents I knew, hoping to learn how to be a good one. Parenting looked so easy. Parents told their kids what to do, kids did it. If they didn't, they'd get in trouble. See? Easy!
So, I've been at this parenting thing for 11 years now. Not a lifetime, I know, but I do have some experience under my belt at this point. And, I'm left wondering why no one ever told me the truth?
My mother told me many helpful things:
I hope you have a child just like you.
Because I'm a mean old witch, that's why!
And one I find myself using a lot lately,
If you're coming upstairs, bring something with you to put away.
What she never told me was that the reason she walked around the house picking up small pieces of fluff and trash from the floor was that no one else would. She didn't tell me that the reason I needed to clean up after myself was because if I didn't, I was leaving that mess for someone else (probably her).
She also didn't tell me that parenting is hard. People make such a big deal about babies, and how much work they are. It's not true. Babies eat, sleep, mess diapers, and cuddle. Babies are simple. But what do you do when your son scratches pictures into the computer desk because he's bored, your daughters give the neighbor kids the push broom for a play and then they lose it, or someone keeps sneaking into the pantry but won't eat the food you put in front of them? Better yet, what do you do when your children get their feelings hurt, or they're trying to navigate the more complex relationships of adolescence? How do you teach them to live in the world and not lose their innocence?
Kids problems only get harder as they get older, and I'm starting to think I have no idea what I'm doing. I know what I think, what I believe, what values I want to instill in them. But how do I do that? I've learned that for every question I have, there is an expert who'd like to sell me a book to answer it.
So here's what I think. I think I have to be honest. Sometimes I have to explain that I'm just doing the best I can, and giving them the best advice I have to give, but that I'm human and I'm going to make mistakes, too. I have to know when to say I'm sorry and admit that I've screwed up. I have to keep working on my connection to each of my kids as individual people so that when they do have issues that they need help with, I'll have a better idea of what will help them. I have to trust myself as their mother. No expert or book knows them like I do. I have to know when to ask for help because we all need help, sometimes. And, I have to pray. Because my kids aren't really mine. I'm just blessed with being able to take care of them for a while.
Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.