My husband and I were talking recently and we decided that raising kids is hard. Just being be brutally honest, it’s tough. I have cried myself to sleep more than once over my kids. Of course, I have also been a #proudmomma more than once as well. For the sake of full disclosure, I feel like I’m winging it most of the time, just hoping for the best. I have done my “personal best,” yes, but will it be enough, is it enough?
I can remember as a much younger mom of small children and babies, reading everything I could get my hands on about parenting. Everyone has a philosophy, an opinion or a theory that they firmly believe in. Each one being more than happy to tell you what you should do to raise great kids, champions even. Who doesn’t want to raise champions?! I can remember feeling so overwhelmed by it all. Scheduling, I read, was the answer, no, wait, don’t over plan your child’s time that will stifle their creativity. Never let them drink from a bottle, they said, that will mess up their teeth and a never a pacifier, those teach your child to be too dependent. Don’t help them too much with their homework, they need to learn to do it on their own and you’ll stunt brain development if you don’t give them enough milk. They shouldn’t play video games, have them read instead. (Yeah, right, just tell my sixteen year old that.) Teach them to be motivated, how do you teach that exactly? Don’t be too hard on them, it will destroy their self-esteem. But, be sure to discipline them or they will be horrible people. Bed times are imperative, same time every night, along with a home cooked meal. Make sure they keep their “environment” clean. (You mean their room?) Sign them up for sports, as many as possible so you can see which one brings out their inner athlete. You never know, maybe they will be able to win a college scholarship by being a sports prodigy. Be sure to expose them to the arts, don’t neglect plays and foreign languages, they will be hillbillies if you do. Make sure they are on the dean’s list, honor roll, National Honor’s Society, and every club at school so their college resume will be competitive. Oh, and don’t forget student government, they definitely need to be in charge of governing the class so they will appreciate when you suggest that they run for public office one day. It doesn’t matter if they want to, it’s what’s best for them. I mean, honestly, isn’t this all for them? Just looking out for their best interest, developing their talents and abilities to praise God and help all mankind. Oh yeah, about God, don’t forget to find the perfect church for them, an amazing youth group with just the right praise and worship band, that will make them more spiritual. Do all of these things right and “presto!” your kids will be amazing people.
According to the parenting books it was good to expose your kids to several sports, so we did. We’ve lived in the north and the south, so we’ve tried a variety of sports. Soccer, swimming, volleyball, softball, football, baseball, tennis and cross country. That’s just the ones I can think of. I remember one spring in particular both boys signed up for baseball and it felt like we lived at the ball park. Home cooked meals for a balanced diet? Didn’t happen, unless you count the cheese on nachos? Or maybe the, well, there wasn’t much else. They hated baseball by the end of that season, nachos and all. But, I did my part and “exposed” them to it, now on to the next sport. Then there was football, a religion here in the south, we just weren’t cut out for it. I remember one of my sons saying, “Momma, I heard those helmets crashing together in drill and I just got sick to my stomach.” He never made it past middle school in the uniform. Another sport checked off the list. Then there was soccer, my daughter loved it. When we lived up north she played and played, but our little Alabama town didn’t offer it when we moved here several years ago, so that was out as well. Cross country won the day, and tennis. Finding a physical activity? Check. We really should be nominated for parents of the year. Well, except for the broken arm, blisters, bruises from being hit by baseballs, and dehydration when I forgot the Gatorade. Never mind about the nomination, I really am a terrible mom.
Clearly, I had no idea what I was getting into when I signed up to be a parent. And after reading all those parenting experts, I felt like I had no business being a parent. I was definitely not qualified. I’m pretty sure I’ve made about every mistake there is to make. We have and still do eat additives and preservatives, drink coke, eat too much sugar, and watch too much TV. It’s a wonder my kids are able to make a complete sentence! They drank milk in a sippie cup and, honestly, I’m amazed their teeth didn’t fall out. They played outside and lived through bug bites when I forgot bug repellent, which was often. They never read enough, can you ever read enough really? I’m a failure at exposing them to the arts, unless you count school plays. (Although, one of my children was a part of a community drama club that was pretty great.) We did fairly well about bed time, but I’m pretty certain that was more for me than for them. Many nights eight o’clock couldn’t come fast enough, I wonder if anyone else can relate to that?! I forgot sunscreen more that I care to admit, they ate way too many peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and loved the play land at any restaurant. I used to drive across town to a fast food place, passing several perfectly good ones along the way, just to get to the one with a giant play land that my kids could play in for hours. Other people do this, right?
I wonder what God was thinking when he gave me children. Didn’t he realize that I wasn’t trained or experienced? I wasn’t consistent enough, didn’t have all the answers to their questions, wasn’t equipped enough for the one million different situations and circumstances that we would live through together. I didn’t know that boys were tender hearted. Seriously, I only had sisters, I knew all about the emotional needs of a girl, but a boy? Who knew that they had broken hearts sometimes too? It’s been such a journey for me to see life from a boy’s point of view. And I wonder how each child can be so different even though they had the same parents and are raised in the same environment? Why does one have emotional breakdowns and the other seem hard hearted? How come some can sing and others wish they could? And why does the one who can’t sing, sing more than the one who can? Seriously. Wonder why God thought everything would be okay with me making decisions for them? I’ll never understand it.
Well, fast forward to today, they made it. All three of them. They are war weary, and by the parenting book standards, they are mal nourished, under “exposed” to the arts, scarred from sports injuries and probably lack an overall understanding of how government really works. They really should’ve run for student government, that would’ve taken care of everything. But, I tried. I really did. So far, the ones who have left the nest seem to be figuring out adulthood okay. I hope that not trying out for the bowling team hasn’t left them emotionally unable to handle pressure. Life is going to throw some curve balls at them, good thing we played ball for a while. And, man, people are going to have some crazy philosophies to share, guess we can get out the old under used football helmet and cover those ears and brain to protect them from being infiltrated with untruths. And tennis will be such a blessing when they are having conversations and they can imagine it is like volleying a ball back and forth. Keep the conversation going, don’t miss the ball. We’ve done our part, now it’s time for them to do theirs.
I have to say, of all the parenting we did, good and bad, the greatest thing we ever did was offer them Jesus. Honestly, there isn’t anything more valuable than that. We’ve spent countless hours praying for them, and teaching them right from wrong as well as over parenting them by trying to offer them every opportunity available. I am sorry to those of you who dated one of my children and had to go through a back ground check. I now realize that was a bit over the top. It seemed like a good idea at the time, I’m sure I read it in a parenting book somewhere. We just wanted to be good parents, and over all, we probably were okay. They were loved, fed and prayed for, what else could you possibly want?
One day maybe I’ll write a book on parenting. It won’t take long, a quick read. It will say, “I don’t have any advice, just feed them, water them, and pray a lot! Oh, and do find a good church with a few good praying friends that love your kids too.” No four hundred pages of suggestions on how to raise great kids, just a sympathetic ear and words of encouragement. Lots of encouragement and prayer. Although, I have to confess, I did learn a lot over the years, I would actually be a better parent now that I’m older and wiser. I would laugh more and stress less. Oh well, I don’t have the energy to do it all again. l’m not trying to say you should knock good advice, but keep it all in perspective. Don’t feel like you have to do everything that is in the books, trust your gut. They’ll grow up to be good people by watching your example more than anything else.
I am now on the brink of the next season of life and I am looking forward to spoiling some grandchildren. Although, not any time soon I hope! I’ll take them to soccer practice, cheer them on at baseball and if I’m lucky, be invited into their lives. I’m sure they won’t mind if I ride along on their dates, I’m a ton of fun and I’ll know lots of stories about their parents. Ha! Then I’ll be a #proudgrandma