If we have ever had children or step-children, we know there are so many wonderful moments that come from our experiences with them. It isn’t always easy and some nights we stay awake wondering if we handled a conflict correctly or simply feel we have let our children down. In the last few months, I have read several touching comments from moms who are trying to be the best they can be to children of various ages. The first was a letter I received from the mom of Parker Swanson, a young man who stole my heart asking for old used eyeglasses on my porch one Saturday morning. I ended up writing a RGJ column about Parker and later received a letter from his mom, Sarah:
I just wanted to thank you for your thoughtful article about Parker and lighting the world. He’s enjoyed his ten seconds of fame at church, school, and on Facebook. Likes and shares on Facebook are the modern day popularity barometer. We typically don’t share likes, shares and comments with Parker. He’s young, curious, and competitive-he’d be obsessed with it – but we did this time. Your article has been a great example of forgetting the likes and shares, focusing on the right thing, and letting the good follow. And even if the good or recognition never followed, doing the right thing no matter how small would quietly create a life to be proud of.
Truth is, we don’t spend our days lighting the world. Most days are survival. No one warns you of the emotional warfare you go through as a parent. You always wonder if you’re saying the right things, doing the right thing, or unintentionally scaring them for life. I can live for weeks on one parenting success- mostly because it might be part of a long drought until the next parenting success! Most of the time, I just hope and pray for experiences where my boys will learn and see their amazing worth. So, I look forward to this article for Parker because to be complimented as a kid goes a long way and to be recognized for small things can make a child bloom into that huge soul they didn’t know they had stuffed into their tiny bodies. But what I didn’t imagine was that it would make me see more good too: the good in Parker, who at six years old is spirited and tries my patience daily, and the good in Jared and me as parents –when often as a parent you don’t quite feel like you’re making it. Parker’s success is my success and I’ll put this experience as a little jewel in my life mosaic. I hope Parker will too.
I was touched by Sarah’s letter as even though I had only seen the best in Parker, we all know as parents the work that we must put in daily to keep the best in them shining. There are so many influences and challenges along the way and the honesty of the struggle is part of the beauty of parenting.
Recently, I read a post from a mother of two who I know personally. I am aware of the great people her children are already turning out to be at age 16 and almost 13 and yet she is questioning her decisions like we all do:
Honest post. February has sucked. I don’t like parenting teens. I don’t feel like I’m good at it. It’s uncomfortable and I’m second guessing every word I say, decision I make, what rules to enforce and which to relax on. I live in a land of 5-8 year olds, and have for almost 20 years. I GET little kids. I find myself mourning my kids’ childhood being gone. I loved the Thomas the train, Barbie and Lego days.
I keep reading articles and books about how as your teen grows, they become your best friend. I call bull. My 5 year olds were my buddies. I am the furthest thing from “friends” with my teen. He definitely doesn’t like me right now. Feeling’s pretty mutual. I am trying to embrace the fact he’s trying to spread his wings of independence. I now understand why God made them teens right before they move out. I hate the attitude that comes with him trying to separate from us. I hate the driving, dating, shady new friends and sleepless nights. Pass me a colicky baby that is safe in my arms. I can do that all night. Two year old temper tantrums? Scream it out baby-you’re safe in my house and I don’t have to worry about you ending up in jail.
I’m putting this out there, because I’m tired of the shiny Facebook world that makes us all seem like we have sunshine every day. Parenting is freaking HARD. I’m grateful for my tribe who has my back every day. Thank you! I pray this pops up as a memory 5 years from now and I go “oh wow! That was hard! So glad we made it out!”
I’m looking forward to this month being over. Ready for real Spring and sunshine. Oh wait. Next month is when the youngest turns 13. Oh yay. TWO teenagers in the house. I’ll be rocking in the corner enjoying these throwbacks.
I’ve parented through all of the ages above and we even decided to start again with our youngest, Miles. There is no judgmental answers to provide to these two moms in their honest words above. There is just honesty. Sometimes it is hard to understand our own lives and our own friends. We face struggles at work or with family or even health. In the end, the mystery of our children keeps ups guessing in a magical way that we learn to appreciate every day. On the hard days with our children, we may lose sleep. On the great days, we go to bed once again knowing we have done the best we can and look forward to what the next day might bring…..maybe.