As I started writing this blog post, I wanted to dedicate it to the new parents out there. Because holy crap if you’re a new parent. You are surely going through some big changes. You are definitely tired. You are probably hormonal. You are feeling accomplished and hopeful and well-adjusted one day — and like a huge flop of a failure the next. I was gonna be all, don’t worry guys. You’ll figure it out!
But the more I thought about it and wrote it out, I realized this blog post is probably just as much for me, and all of us who are in any stage of parenting. You see, just when
you I think I’m getting the hang of things, it all changes. I wonder why I forget that. Maybe because I feel like I’ve been doing it a long time. Maybe because I think I’ve survived the hardest years of my life and I lived to tell about it (so far). Maybe because my brain tricks me to believe it.
But I think I’ve mentioned here before that things as a parent don’t always get easier. They just get different. We overcome one challenge to be met with another. Each stage of parenting has it’s own demands. From the newborn stage to toddlers to tweens and teens all the way into adulthood.
If you’re a parent, you’re in training. We ALL are. Learning as we go.
I personally had (another) big lesson a couple weeks ago with Stevie. It didn’t seem big at the time, it seemed ridiculous. But when I sat and thought about it, it gave me a lot of insight into what this kid is dealing with. Basically I had asked him to go get his swim trunks from his dresser. He went in and returned saying “I can’t find them”. I rolled my eyes because he can never find anything. That’s what kids always say. I sent him back and he returned 10 seconds later repeating that he couldn’t find them. I explained EXACTLY where they were — in the drawer with all his other shorts. Same place they’ve been all this time.
He started showing signs of frustration, whining and yelling that he really couldn’t find them. I started getting stern with him and said “Listen, if you don’t go get your swim trunks, we are not going swimming. And that’s it. Enough is enough! Don’t even come out of your room until you have them.” I went back to doing the dishes (that doesn’t sound like me, but let’s go with it) and assumed with that kind of ultimatum he’d be back real fast. But all I could hear was him crying and screaming.
It gradually turned into a full-fledged-over-the-top-meltdown. And it went on about 5 minutes before I had the thought to record him and send a video of this insanity to his dad. At least we’d laugh about it later. I sneaked into his doorway with the iPhone rolling and what I saw broke my heart a little bit:
He was opening and closing all the drawers, screaming at the top of his lungs, big crocodile tears rolling down his cheeks. He was… desperate to find his swim trunks. He looked in the drawers I had asked him to over and over. He was trying. But couldn’t figure it out. I watched for a minute and then set down my phone and put my hand on his shoulder to calm him down. I showed him that the swim trunks were underneath a different pair of shorts. He simply needed to move one pair out of the way to see the others. I had never specifically shown him that he could do that. When he chooses his own clothes for school, he picks whatever is right on top. It was a light bulb moment for him — and for me. It made me think of all the other things I’ve never specifically shown him, and made me realize how many skills I’ve had to teach him, baby step by baby step, that come so naturally to other children.
An important training moment for me, at this stage of parenting — when I thought he had a simple task down, but there was a very important factor missing.
As our children grow, we seem to be met with unique and different circumstances all the time. We take them as they come. Make a lot of gut calls and hard decisions. Things that we never thought we’d have to deal with and things that other people will surely offer advice on. It doesn’t matter what anyone says though. Because you ultimately have to make a judgement call based on what’s right for you and your family. This is your experience. This is your training.
It’s also interesting for me being in a mom’s group where most of the children are toddlers and younger. I feel like a seasoned veteran in some areas of discussion. It’s easy for me to say “let them cry it out” / “they’ll be fine” / “you are doing a great job” because seeing it all from the other side, I know this. I know that if your baby drinks formula or breast milk, they’ll be fine. I know that if your kid watches the iPad before the age of 2, or after, or never, they’ll be fine. I often encourage moms to relax. And encourage them to take time to themselves and their partners. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
But it’s so different when you’re in it.
And still in my own life, I’m a lot harder on myself. As a parent, as a wife, as a friend. I fall short more often than not. I try to forgive myself daily, but it sometimes builds up. I certainly don’t give myself much credit for the hard work I put in because there is always more to do. I don’t take my own advice. I feel guilty taking time for myself. I feel guilty that I don’t give enough time and effort to my relationships. And I totally feel guilty asking for help.
Is it a genetic thing? A generational thing? A mom thing? Well, my husband gets guilted too, so maybe a parenting thing in general?
The silver lining in the whole matter is that we are not alone in these feelings. That keeps me hopeful. I know the seasons will change. Sometimes more slowly for some than others, but there’s really no stopping it. We all have our ups and downs. We all make mistakes. We are all figuring it out as we go. We are being trained. For what, I’m not really sure. Since there never seems to be an end in the lessons.
But god-damn if we won’t be awesome grandparents, because for sure we’ll have it all figured out by then! Or at least we’ll be smart enough to pretend we do.
What stage of parent training are you in right now? Any advice you would give yourself looking back?