This week Old School Mama made some delicious Chicken Salad with cilantro and lemon pepper for us to dine on. Served on warm baguette bread and sprinkled with nuts (or not for Old School Mama) and dried berries (or not for Busy Buddha) it was just right. As we enjoyed our meal the conversation turned to the topic of parenting. I shared that it had been a rough morning at our house because we were all a bit short on sleep.
My husband and I had been up until midnight helping our 7th grade daughter with a science project gone bad. She had been working on the project all evening on her own. When she came to show me the completed project and to test how it worked she found that, in fact, it did not work at all. She began to panic!
Yes, the overall reality was she had gotten the assignment two weeks earlier and had ample time to build, test and rebuild the project. However, the reality of the moment was that the project was due the next morning and she was currently staring at a failed attempt. My husband and I were moved to stay up and support her as she rebuilt the project.
My friends looked at me as if I were completely nuts! "WHAT?" "You are TOO nice!" "Not in my house!" "My kid would be going to school without a project, I can tell you that!" In fact, Old School Mama's son is in the same class and she had, that very morning, sent him to school without his project completed because he hadn't managed his time to get it done.
Now, these are my dear friends who happen to think I do an okay job at this parenting gig most of the time so I knew their comments were coming from a place of love. However, I couldn't help but feel like I'd failed parenting 101. I'd done something none of the "good parents" would have done.
The reality is, as parents, we all end up doing some of those things that we say we never will. I clearly remember heading out to the store with my oldest when she was a newborn; smelling baby fresh, tucked into her carrier with her adorable outfit on. I would see a mom with her toddler whose face had a milk moustache, hair was clearly not combed and shoes on the wrong feet. I would think, looking at my beautiful baby girl, I will never take you out in public looking like that!
Fast forward three years and there I was heading into the store with my disheveled looking toddler, me 9 months pregnant, just feeling happy we had made it out of the house! Now, I smile when I'm out with my 3rd, a toddler, and some well meaning person points out that her shoes are on the wrong feet...they sure are, but she put them on herself! Isn't that fantastic?!
My oldest is now teaching me lessons about mothering an almost teenager. I used to wonder how parents of tweens and teens could possibly allow their kids to speak to them in the snappy, disrespectful tone I often heard. Then, I read a great book called, How to Hug a Porcupine by Julie A. Ross, M.A. as my oldest became a tween. The author pointed out that as parents sometimes we need to take ourselves back to when our now tweens were infants.
When they would cry we would listen carefully and learn to discern their different cries. Are they hungry, sleepy or in need of reassurance that we are there? We listened to them cry with compassion because we wanted to be able to help. The book suggested that we do the same with our tweens.
When my daughter marches out of dance class saying, in a less than friendly tone, "LET'S GO!" Instead of hearing, "I have no respect for you mom" as I used to hear in other people's children, I now hear, "I've had a really bad day, I'm tired and I'm about to loose it. So, can we get out of here so you can give me a hug?" I like to think that following her out to the car and giving her that hug might be more valuable than a lecture on the appropriate way to speak to your mother.
I'm certainly not suggesting that we let our toddlers rule the roost, nor that we have no limits as to what is an appropriate way for our older children to speak to us. I am pointing out that as parents we're constantly deciding which hills we're going to die on. I'm also suggesting that sometimes we're going to show our kids compassion for where they are in life, even if it appears like less than stellar parenting to those looking on.
When I first became a mom and began worrying about all of the mistakes I might make, my own mother gave me the gift of these simple words, "They grow-up in spite of us."
As parents we do the best we can knowing that mistakes will be made. I just hope at the end of the day my kids know their mom loves them...even if she is a little nuts!
Blessings, The Simplicity Buff
TALK BACK TO THE TRIO
Do you have a standard bit of advice that you offer new parents?