This post is for you, Sheri.
A friend of mine suggested the other day that I write about being an easy going, happy, content parent instead of a frazzled, freaked out mess of a mom to three kids.
Well, I'm clearly not a mother, but I'll do my best.
I know she was (at least) half kidding, but the undertone of desperation was clear. It's a feeling I understand well. So I decided to ask myself how I feel about parenting.
You've been warned.
Here's the truth: sometimes being a parent sucks.
Sometimes, despite all that you try to do, your kids are brats, and the sink is full of dirty dishes, and something's burning, and the laundry is piling up, and you are under appreciated. You really are.
Here's another truth: sometimes you suck as a parent too.
You forget parties and homework and dinner. Sometimes you punish, rather than instruct. You yell like a crazy person. You say things that you know you shouldn't. You belittle your children in ways that you never thought you would. You lash out irrationally. It's like an out of body experience -- you're standing there watching a maniac, who looks just like you, raging at your children. And you can't stop it. Sometimes you behave far worse than the children you're trying to raise into well functioning members of society.
And, it's okay.
I believe that we, as parents, get it right far more often than we get it wrong -- but for some reason it's the tough moments that register and pop back up, over and over again, in our memory. So, if you're freaked out and frazzled, you're just like everyone else.
Part of the problem -- a big part -- as I see it, is that we live in the age of uber parenting. Parents today seem to be in constant competition with one another -- a kind of passive/aggressive one-upping each other. It's not that we tell people that they are doing anything wrong, but in this age of share all social media, we all know what the other is doing.
But we don't really, do we? We live in a customizable world. We can listen to the exact song we want to listen to, watch television without those pesky commercials, get our food prepared EXACTLY the way we want it, we can take a thousand pictures, and delete all but one, and through the help of social media, like Facebook, we can even customize the image we present to the world. And most of us leave out the less savory stuff.
So, what does this have to do with parenting?
I think it's some kind of social pressure akin to peer pressure -- keeping up with the Joneses. Something inside of us thirsts to be the best -- or at least as good as everyone else. The problem is, most of us aren't as good at parenting as we'd like everyone else to think (or as we lead them to believe).
Another sign of the uber parent -- and a symptom of the customizable world -- is a feeling that your child is somehow more special than all the other millions of kids out there, and you're going to structure every second of their lives, to maximize their "specialness". You're going to give them every opportunity, and more -- even if it kills you. Because that's what good parents do. Or so we are told.
To a greater or lesser extent we all do this. We brought these children into the world. We are responsible for them. In a very real sense, we have chosen to dedicate a couple of decades of our lives to primarily raising children. But where does the easy going, happy and content part come in?
Do we have to wait for the kids to move out?
I wouldn't count on that -- it seems the trend lately is for the kids to move right back in after they realize that their hand is no longer being held (another result of the hovering parent).
First of all, ask yourself a couple of questions:
Do you love your children? Of course you do.
Do your children KNOW that you love them? I'll bet they do.
Would you give your life for your children? I've got news for you -- that's exactly what parenting is.
So, let some of the other stuff roll off your back.
If your child is not functioning on the same level as some other kid, it's not a judgment on your parenting abilities. And if someone is judging you on that kind of thing, you're hanging out with the wrong crowd.
If your kids misbehave, correct it, and get over it.
It's going to happen again. I guarantee it.
If you misbehave as a parent, correct it and get over it.
It's going to happen again. I guarantee that too.
Don't kill yourself parenting, that does no one any good. If we structure our children's lives a little less, something amazing is going to happen -- their brains will engage and they will succeed. They're marvelous little miracles that way.
And when the beautiful moments come (and if you're watching for them, you'll see that they come more often than you realized) -- the whispered I love you's and the pleases and thank you's and toothless smiles and the late night talks and the driving lessons and the recitals and soccer games and the hero worship and the vacations and the games and the sprinklers and the holding little hands and the home made cards and the butterfly kisses and the happy laughter-- embrace them.
And know that this is the real evidence of what kind of parent you are.
You're doing just fine.