Often I am fortunate to join Sandra Beck on her Tuesday radio program, Motherhood Talk Radio. I love our conversations. She and I have had numerous chats about parenting – she being in the midst of her boys’ busy ages, and me with children grown and out of the nest, as the expression goes. On a recent show we talked about the changes of the season and accepting the changes in life. As much as it may feel like an eternity while you are going through your children’s youth, I cannot say emphatically enough how I am stunned that the time has flown so quickly.
It’s the time of year that kids are back in school now, and families are having to get back into a routine. Oddly, even though we don’t have children in the house anymore, we are finding our schedules are shifting a little. Maybe it’s the fact that the days are getting shorter. Maybe it’s that everyone we know are back to a school routine, so our involvement with others force our schedules to conform. There are times that I’m melancholy that my children aren’t asking for help with their homework or needing a quick trip to the store to pick up supplies for a project due in the morning. It’s almost as if I was hired as a temp, did the job, and then was “let go”.
I have held many jobs in my adult life. Each job has something new that I’ve learned, something I hope I’ve contributed, and ultimately something I can positively take with me to my next point in life’s journey. So what about this job of parenting? How do we survive the on-the-job training and do it right? I am convinced that we are far too critical of ourselves. We have this vision of being the supermom or superdad, that we are to always be the ultimate source of knowledge, of stability, of control. “Don’t let them see you falter!” “Don’t give in!” I have news… you’re going to falter, you’re going to give in, and most of all, your children are going to survive.
Like any job, we learn as we go. Yes, disposable diapers are supposed to stick to the diaper, not the child’s skin. Got it. Lesson number one. But what about the harder stuff. When do we let them go to the movies without us? What do we say when they’re crying after a fight with their best friend? What do we do when we lose our day job?
Children learn about life from observation. They see everything! They learn from us, from their friends’ families, from teachers, church mentors, and scout leaders. Talk to them about life. “Do you like the way Mrs. Smith makes tuna sandwiches?” “Yes, she sings when we pick up toys and it’s fun.” It is so important to listen to our kids. Even if it is the most insignificant thing in the world, it is important to them at that moment, and by giving them your attention to listen, you are empowering them to have enough confidence to voice their opinion, to voice their feelings, that they have value and purpose. Surely we can’t drop everything every time they tug our shirttail, but give them the acknowledgement that you are anxious to hear what they have to say and when you can give them that undivided time…. and keep it.
Now, I guess, I can say I’m a survivor. I have learned to keep the past as a reference, but not as an expectation. I can’t change the world, but I can change my part of it, even if it’s simply in my own attitude. One’s own contentment is up to the one living it. Facing challenges or adversity can be devastating or it can be a progression. It’s all perspective. As I watch my daughter settling into domestic life, I think how I must have had something to do with this amazing woman… “did we do that?” I see our son striving to take on challenges and utilize his creativity far beyond whatever goal he thought was his benchmark…”did we do that?” Well, if we did have a little to do with it, I am allowing myself a big sigh… and yes, a bit of a smile.