For all the parents out there…hang in there. It gets better. I promise.
Parenting is a thankless job that requires you to act wisely and lovingly even when you don’t feel very wise and you’re starting to wonder why you chose to breed at all.
Parenting requires you to do the right thing no matter how inconvenient, exhausting, or expensive doing the right thing is going to be.
Parenting requires you to hold firm to boundaries and rules even as your children scream that you are ruining their life.
And of course, you are ruining their life…at least the life they think they should have.
The problem with parenting is that there is nothing to give you that smug sense of assurance that you have made the right choices, held firm at the right times, and bent the rules in the right ways. There is no way to be sure that the parenting choices you have made will lead to a happy, healthy child.
In so many ways, parenting is a crapshoot.
Maybe you throw a 7, and maybe you crap out. ***
And the big fear that hangs over every parent is that your child will grow up, look back at their childhood, and declare you a bad parent. The fear is that they’ll remember the discipline and not the lessons, the punishments and not the good times, the fights and not the nights spent at their bedside when they were sick.
Hang in there, parents. It gets better. I promise.
Today my oldest daughter called me to thank me, saying that she had recently read that children gain confidence in themselves from their interactions with their parents. She wanted to let me know how much she appreciated her father and I and how much time and attention we gave her.
I want to make this clear: I was not a stay-at-home mom, and her father wasn’t a stay-at-home dad.
We both worked full time.
Then Phil started graduate school just before I got my call into ministry. I quit my job and went to seminary full-time while Phil worked full time and attended one class per semester at ASU in pursuit of a Master’s in Computer Science Engineering.
Five years later, we graduated within 7 days of each other, having done a ton of creative things to get through the grueling 5 years it took for both of us to graduate.
My seminary was in California, so I had fly to school every week. I was gone for two days each week while Phil had to do everything and I do mean everything: he had to deal with both kids, his job, and all of his homework. It damn near killed him and there were many semesters when he was so busy that he felt exhausted and on the edge of tears almost every day.
And the kids? They don’t remember how tired and emotional their father was. They remember that when I was gone at school, their father would pick them up from aftercare program and take them straight to the library where they would return last week’s books, pick out new books, and then listen as their father read to them for a good hour. Then they would go the park next to the library and play on the playground, where Phil would morph into the Tickle Monster. He would chase the girls and they would run (and scream…you can be certain that they screamed enough to drive a grown man crazy) until they were tired and hungry. Then he’d take them to Taco Bell for tacos or burritos and then home for a bath, more reading, and bedtime.
Trendy parents might scoff at the quality of the food he fed them for dinner, or the repetitiousness of the playtime. Other parents might complain that dad seemed more like a babysitter doing the “good time” stuff while mom got the laundry, cleaning, and grocery shopping.
What my daughter told me was that while I was away, she and her sister soaked in their father’s undivided attention and adoration. They became dyed in the wool “Daddy’s girls”…and both of them still idolize their father to the point that I actually apologized to my son-in-law when he married my daughter. That might explain why he almost immediately moved her to Oregon. Hmmm…
You might wonder if my relationship with my daughters is tense and distant considering that I’m the one that kept leaving the state to go to school.
In fact, I am very close with both my girls.
My oldest daughter said that she remembers spending summer breaks with me. I took her and her sister to swim team and dive team every day and then we’d rush home to watch I Love Lucy while we ate our lunches. They’d spend their afternoons playing inside while I did laundry and cleaned house in between spates of doing homework. When I had free time, we would make homemade jam or bake brownies together. Basically, I made food while they made a mess and then I got to clean it up. My daughter said she could not imagine how I didn’t go crazy sitting there for hours in the heat and humidity (hello indoor pool) waiting for them, while they got to swim and dive and have fun. Then she spent twenty minutes going on and on about how much fun it was when we would buy bagels from Einstein’s, and then go home and make homemade veggie cream cheese.
Listen parents: what I’m trying to tell you is that you are harder on yourself than your children will be when they look back. They won’t remember how crazy busy you were, not if you took a minute or two to braid a friendship bracelet with them, or to be the Swim Mom, or to be the library Dad. They will remember the times you danced in the Walmart aisles because a good song was playing, or the times you played nail salon, or the times you watched their favorite movie again and again.
You don’t have to be a perfect parent.
You don’t have to give them everything they want.
You don’t have to let them break the rules and get away with murder.
All you have to do is…
My husband and I didn’t do these things because we are such spectacular parents. We did what we did because it made it easier for us in the midst of a very difficult time of our lives. It’s what helped us smile even as we were crushed under the load of work, kids, housework and homework.
Hang in there, parents! I have good news!
You are enough after all, and the likelihood is that your kids will one day tell you so, right to your face.
Hang in there. The good stuff is coming, I promise.
*** In case you’ve never heard of Craps https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Craps#Rules_of_play