With kids, parenting choices are made every second of every day.
Each night I wonder if I fed my mini me’s healthily enough or if I allowed too much sugar. Every second that they sit in front of the t.v. I question what they are watching and for how long it’s been. Is it okay that I let Grace go to school today wearing her favorite owl sweater that is much too small?
How about the way I reacted when they were crawling on the ground like babies, on the dirty floor of the pre-school hallway? Instead of yelling or attempting to get their forty pound bodies up off the floor (which would have led to writhing and laughing at me), I told them there would be no more driving though Starbucks for birthday cake pops. Bribery with those made for little girl birthday pops; pink frosting over cake with sprinkles on a stick! Should I ever have taken them to Starbucks for birthday cake pops to begin with? Wasn’t I just instilling that backward behavior where food is a prize, a treat for having such a good day?
I wonder how (much) the decisions I make for them now will determine the kinds of people they will be.
Am I fooling myself into thinking that I have that much control? Once the world gets a hold of us, isn’t that what determines our future and regardless of our upbringing, don’t we turn out to be who we are supposed to be anyway?
I am reminded of a great book I read called The Glass Castle. It’s author, a woman named Jeanette Walls (who’s also a pretty famous celebrity journalist) was raised by parents who did practically zero in the parenting department. The book documents her experiences, like how the children stayed dry when trying to sleep under a leaky roof and how they didn’t die of starvation when the folks spent all the food money on alcohol. The kids had to figure out a system for living a life with parents, sans parenting. And they did, though in the end Ms. Walls turned out to have a productive life while her sister did not. So whose fault was that? Why does one child succeed despite poor parenting, while another falters and either repeats the same mistakes or make brand spanking new ones?
Once I had come through the other side of the haze called my teens and early twenties, I could see that my own mom had done the absolute best job she could have (especially considering she was a young widow with three children to raise on her own). I made lots of bad decisions along the way, tried stuff that I hope my girls never do, but it wasn’t because of my parents. It was me and my need for pushing the envelope, for finding my own way, because I was/am stubborn and house a bit of a rebel inside my heart. It’s a beautiful day when we realize that our parents are real human people and that’s when our relationships change and we are allowed to become friends. But it only happens after the world has had its chance to tempt us, to shake us up and see how we land. Those of us who land on our feet (and choose to want to be friends) benefit from the new relationships with our parents. Others never have the opportunity or just never learn.
All I can do is continue to build a foundation for my kids that will hopefully be their armour against the world when I’m not around to protect them. I must continue to trust my gut and hope that les girlies turn out to be productive and good people, who are kind and fair. I fully expect the day will come, though, when the world grabs hold of them and I’m sure I’ll have some explaining to do. I hope they come to me to work it out.
And as the questions get harder, my approach will be to tell the truth, since I believe in it wholeheartedly. Because the truth is that I am exactly who I am despite or in spite of what my parents ever did, and my kids will be who they are supposed to be despite or in spite of what their father and I choose for them.
Parenting is darned hard and getting harder everyday.
It’s hard, but it’s joyous, and my fingers are tightly crossed that we all survive!