After 10 Years of Parenting, I’m Still Learning

When your daughter mentions from the backseat that her stomach hurts, throw her a bag and stop the car. That’s all the warning you will ever get.

When your kid who doesn’t like beans loves hummus, don’t screw it up by telling him hummus is made of beans. Keep that little secret to yourself.

Sometimes I’m still not that sharp when it comes to my kids, even after ten years of surprises and managing chaos on the fly. I guess I’m still perfecting my technique.

By now I hoped I’d be much more of an expert on parenting. With a son who just turned ten and a daughter following in his footsteps, I at least thought it would be easier with her. The truth is, I stumble through every day as much as I did when the kids were young. Sure, it’s nice now that the kids can talk about their problems and fears, but those problems and fears are real. They rival my own. They are big. My job has gone from chasing and wiping to tutoring and therapist. I feel like a babysitter who’s been promoted to principal without all of the qualifications, a bit out of my realm.

Sometimes you get your training on the job. And in motherhood, there’s really no other way. Here’s what I’m still working on:

My kids were complex people from the time they were born. I think I had an idea that I could make my kids do things or be things that I wanted them to be, mold them into the dream I imagined. From day one, their personalities emerged. They are who they are. I have to remind myself constantly that it’s my job to help them understand what’s part of them and to embrace it. It’s much harder than I thought it would be to merely guide.

Every bad thing that happens to my kids is not my fault. I can’t take responsibility for a diagnosis. When my kids get sick, it’s not because I am a bad parent. When it’s something more, I hate telling my child I don’t have the answers. When my kids don’t get picked for something, don’t get invited to a friend’s party, or lose something they really wanted to win, I have to remember it will make them stronger. They didn’t miss out because I wasn’t better friends with the other kid’s mom or because I didn’t prepare them better for the contest. It’s about their relationship and their performance.

My kids know more than I give them credit for. I was a kid once. I was capable of handling pain and fear and grief and mean kids. Sometimes I just have to be OK with letting my kids experience the world. I don’t cushion them from the bad stuff, but I certainly worry more than I should about it. I have to remember that mean kids made me tough. I learned to stand up for myself. Tears helped me shed my pain. I learned through my mistakes and my successes. It’s hard to watch my kids mess up and not know the answers, but I know the value of what they’ll learn from it. After all, I’m still learning every day.

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26 Comments

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26 responses to “After 10 Years of Parenting, I’m Still Learning

  1. Your posts are always soooo great and honest! They always hit me right where I am! I love them! Keep up the good work!

  2. Nice post. I think we all are learning.
    Sometimes, I do feel that when things happen to my children it is my fault – or I could have prepared them somehow. I see this much more so in my wife.

  3. That one made me cry. Go back and read it on the tough days because you are right. I still can’t stop trying to fix things for my children (20, 22, and 24) because when one of their hearts break, mine breaks. But you’re right.

    • It’s those broken hearts. Going through childhood was bad enough when it was my own. Having to watch my kids go through it is 100 times worse. Now when we’re grandparents, we’ll ache for them as they go through parenting. It’s a vicious cycle. 😉

      • It is! 🙂
        A little “payback” light bulb just went off. I am jumping out of a plane next Monday (with my 20 year old son and 22 year old daughter) and not telling my mom which I think is the kind thing to do as a 52 year old child.
        All we want is for our kids to be happy, but as your post once again reminds me, I can’t do that for them. I may be coming back here for reminders as well.

      • That may be the kind thing to do at any age! I’m deathly afraid of heights. If my kids choose to jump from a plane when they’re grown, I hope they tell me after the fact. Whew. Have fun!

  4. Will you be my mom? Or at least my motherhood tutor? Beautiful post!

  5. This is utterly brilliant and spot on!

  6. With a 21 year old, I’m still learning. And you know, my mother said the same thing for her whole life. Kids surprise you. Life surprises you. That’s often part of the fun. But not always ;).

  7. Gosh, I haven’t learned ANY of this yet! I guess I’m a bit slow…

  8. “…babysitter who’s been promoted to principal without all of the qualifications” pretty much sums it up! Sometimes I feel like it’s more driving a car without any instruction other than watching someone doing on TV. I continue to be amazes that the next generation always turns out okay.

    But what fun it is. Always something new and fresh.

    PS — There are a few that just live in the van: a Baby Bjorn training potty and some diapers (ask Angie Z. About this), wet wipes, ziplocs, and a BUCKET. ‘Nuf said.

    • I used to keep my van well-stocked when the kids were younger. I had a change of clothes for each of them. Then I stopped. Then one day we went on a trip and I found out what happens when someone throws up in your car and you have nary a wipe or paper towel and your baby wipes are so old, they are dry and stiff. Alas, I still haven’t learned my lesson. I tempt fate every day on that one. But I do keep bags handy now, just in case!

  9. I’m thinking the wisest moms are the ones who admit that there are many moments when they are completely overwhelmed, confused and just plain clueless about what to do with these crazy, amazing beings who call us their mommies. 🙂 Great post from an apparently wise mommy. 🙂

    • Thanks. I so often think back to my own childhood and try to recall whether my parents seemed as frazzled as I often feel. I wonder what my kids think when I am just at a loss and completely overwhelmed. In those times, I desperately hope my kids will forget just like I seem to have forgotten my parents’ shortcomings. 😉

  10. People often think parenting gets easier as children get older. I think it’s just the opposite. With their growing independence, we have to relinquish some control, and it can be hard to find the right balance. That being said, it’s also a joy to see their ‘personalities emerge’ as you say, and see who they really are. Nice post!

    Thanks for stopping by my site. I appreciate it!

    • I think it gets easier in so many ways–because I just am not a baby person! I love their independence. But I wasn’t prepared for this. I think I really thought I’d be MOM–full of wisdom. It’s certainly never how I feel. It’s more like MOM–grasping at straws. 😉

      Thanks for stopping by. Loved your FP piece.

  11. I wonder if we will ever stop learning? I’m doubtful. Your posts are as comforting and relatable than ever. I actually found the baby stage easier… easier than a 9 year old daughter who desperately wants to be the same as her almost 17year old bigger sister, and thinks she has a prerequisite in adulthood Ay ay ay… Ah back to the days when wind was the biggest issue the thing I prayed about most .. “Please Lord make her burp! Pretty please!” Lol
    Keep up the great posts! Blessings to you!

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