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.