In a couple weeks my oldest daughter is going to turn . . . well, older . . . and much too old for me to be her mother. Two weeks later, my second child (my son) has a birthday as well. And I am wondering, when did they get so old? What happened to the little babies that used to give me hugs and kisses and come crying to me when they skinned their knees?
Their approaching birthdays have turned me to pondering on my long period of parenthood, and I have compiled a short list of lessons learned.
1. Only those with no children or small children know all the answers. Have you noticed that? You will be sitting in a class and the teacher will ask a parenting question and the first people to raise their hands are almost always the ones with little experience. The rest of us know we don’t know.
2. Those days you thought would last forever—the ones where all your kids were small and just meeting their physical needs demanded most of your time—now seem to have passed much too quickly, and you wonder why you didn’t appreciate them more.
3. Because . . .when they get older they still demand most of your time, but now you are worrying about their social, spiritual, educational, and emotional needs as well--and fervently praying for their safety.
4. Agency sounds like a good idea when you are the one exercising it, but not so great when your children think they should.
5. It is never a good thing to say, “My child would never . . . “ because they probably are. I can’t tell you how many times I heard parents discuss problems they were having with their children and thought how grateful I was not to have those same challenges—only to find out I did.
6. Just when you think you know what you are doing, the next child comes along.
7. There is a big difference between boys and girls. If I ask my daughters what they have been up to they look at each other, giggle and say, “nothing.” My son, on the other hand, would come in late at night and say, “Wow!! That was so cool! We found this old couch in the desert, and we poured gasoline on it and started it on fire and then took turns jumping over it. Do you want to see the video?”
8. Some of the best times to talk with your kids, will be inconvenient, but worth it. One of the best things I have done as a parent is wait up for my kids when they are out at night. It has been tiring, but has also proved to be critical. I wanted each of them to know that when they walked through the door they would have to look me in the eye and tell me about their evening. But I learned there were other benefits as well. My quietest children always had a hard time talking with me during the day, but their tongues seemed to be loosed after midnight. I have had many nights where I went to bed after two in the morning, due to late night chats. And I wouldn’t trade those talks for any amount of sleep.
9. Letting go requires faith. I am excited to see my kids get older, make good choices and have new opportunities, but it is also a bit scary when your sixteen year old drives off by herself in the car, or your eighteen year old tells you she is going on a road trip with friends. You just take a deep breath and pray a lot.
10. You aren't doing your kids any favors by not teaching them to work. Lazy kids will often grow up to be lazy adults, so for Heaven's sake teach them to do their own laundry, make them do the dishes, sweep and mop the floors, clean the toilets, take out the garbage and weed the garden. I am always shocked at how many parents don't make their kids do house work. I have had mothers ask me how I get my kids to work, and I tell them. I say to the kids, "Here are your jobs. Do them." Of course a stern scowl from their father doesn't hurt. :-)
And here is my most embarrassing parent moment.
One night my son came home and told me he and his friends found an old shopping cart in the desert. For fun, they tied it to the back of a truck, put another friend in it with a helmet on (thankfully!) and dragged him at 50 mile an hour speeds through the sage brush.
The next morning was Sunday and the mother of the poor dragged boy was teaching relief society. She commented on how grateful she was for her son’s friends, especially my son, because she knew if her boy was with mine, he would be safe.
As other mothers turned to me with looks of "Oh, that is so sweet, " I about slid to the floor.