Parenting is a life-long journey. I still call my parents for advice. In hard times, I still want my mom. It does not go away – no matter what your relationship with your kids today.
As a parent, I dislike writing about parenting. It not a one-size-fits-all subject. I do not have all of the answers – or even most of them. There are days when I feel like I have it all together. Then there are the ones….well you know. The ones you never expected to be this hard.
Before we had kids, we had expectations. Expectations of birth, baby life, toddler-life, teen-life, and well so many expectations of control. Then the baby comes. Open the window- toss out the expectations. You have lost all control. Call me when they turn 18.
Here are a few expectations I have come to hang onto over the years:
- Making their own lunch gets them into college
This started in First Grade. It was the last straw. Full lunchbox. Nothing is good to eat. I opened the lunch box and told him to take whatever he wanted to school. His eyes were so big. I surrendered that day. (Only to retreat and rebuild my strategy)
Since that day, I provide many options. They fix their lunch. The night before school I might add. Yes, in the early years of elementary, I am making the sandwich or main dish and they are putting in their snacks and fruit. I get asked a lot about sugar. Easy answer. I do not buy it. Why you ask? Take a marker and put a star by every treat day, birthday celebration, class party in elementary. I do not need to give them sugar in their lunch – the elementary years provide enough opportunities for treats.
My teenager now requests certain things on my shopping lists so he can make his lunches to his specifications. It works. They eat it all. I surrendered the battle but won the war. As we prepare the oldest to launch into college in a few years, I know he will at least know how to make a lunch. There is that.
Independence can be a difficult thing. Sometimes it is just easier to do it ourselves. It is always a work in progress. There are days, when sports go late, that I have been known to make a lunch. But even better is when they do it for each other because they know they did not have time. Win.
2. With more sleep comes more to do lists.
When my daughter was a baby she had some health challenges that meant no sleep for me. Most nights we only slept about an hour and a half at a time. We kept it simple. As they grew, I expected the to-do list to be shorter. They can do more for themselves right? Then came the activities.
Driving! Anyone feel they should outfit their car with an overnight bag and a refrigerator? The to-do lists get longer than I ever expected. The plus side is the sleep is now at least six hours. (As long as I have not started to binge watch Netflix).
While the season of driving is arduous at times in the PNW traffic and rain, it is one I cherish. I feel like they are most off-guard and talking. Getting to know your kids, how they interact, how they observe what is around them. This is the unexpected beauty of the season. Watch for it. Ask the questions. Get to know them. Laugh.
3. Difficulties in activities build character – no really
I could go on and on about sports then I got drug into the theater realm. Don’t get me started. There have been tears. There have been difficult conversations. In general, sometimes we as adults behave poorly when it comes to our kids and their activities. I would like to expect better. I do expect better. I know I can only control my behavior, my responses, my facial expressions (um yes this is the hardest!). We as women can care and protect our kids while modeling respectful interaction. It can be done. It is hard. Most times being right does not matter. Model what we expect from our kids, not what we see in the world.
Parenting in any season is no joke. Each one builds on the last. Each “first” we celebrate can also be a “last”. Their first step means is the last they will not be still and just be in your arms. Mourn and celebrate ! It is ok. Each one brings you closer to building the kids of character we all know they can be.
Our attitude and modeling in circumstances is what matters most. How they see us in the worst of times is what models life to them in the best of times.
You can do it. Expect the best.
What are your most difficult moments?
What area of parenting do you struggle in the most?
Do you pause to celebrate the firsts?
What traditions can you build on from the early years?