I have the blessing of being mom to three amazing, quirky kids. My oldest is nine, not biologically mine, born of my heart rather than my uterus. My middle is eight, fiercely imaginative and one of the kindest souls I have ever met. My youngest is two, he’s rambunctious and the star of my first post, “Suicidal Toddlers,” if that gives you any hint to his personality. Through the last eight years of being their mom I have discovered a lot about parenting. Most notable is that no matter how much control I think I have, they’ll be the first ones to remind me that I don’t. Nothing like arguing with a toddler to teach you that you have no say in how things will happen.
I find that parenting is much like playing frisbee. You put all of your energy and all of your intention into the throw. You spend five times the amount of effort on the wind up; preparing for it, aiming the jejectory, paying attention to the wind. Doing everything in your power to make sure this is going to be perfect, but the moment that it leaves your hand, all you can do is just sit back and watch. At the end of the day, no matter how practiced you are, once it leaves the fingers you have no control on where it lands.
And it’s not just parenting that relates to that, I find comparables to that metaphor within almost every aspect of my life. I was told years ago, in order to live a happy full life of substance I needed to get out of the results business. And whereas I had no idea what that meant back then, I’m beginning to develop an understanding of that concept now. To me, what that means is that I am responsible for investing time and energy into the parts of my life that matter to me. I am responsible for all that I do in this life, but I am not responsible for how things turn out. I am not in charge of the results of my intentions. Which, looking at my track record is probably a good thing.
Once I let go of that frisbee, whether it lands in the cautious yet determined catch of my nine-year old’s hands or it goes flying over the fence, it’s not up to me. Parenting is a lot like that. I do my best to put my time in, pay attention to outside influences, spend five times the amount of effort into the wind up then I would ever want to spend on the release, but at a certain point I have to go hands off. Let them fly or fail or fall; however they will. And if they do fall, you don’t blame the frisbee. You can try to make excuses of the wind, but you just pick it up, brush it off, and try again. Believe me when I tell you, that level of resilience that I’m speaking of is not always my forte. Though it is the goal, it is what I aspire to be, because it is what I aspire to instill in them. I would never consider myself to be a helicopter mom, not that I really enjoy that phrasing. I am relatively hands off. Because I’m not raising children, I’m raising future adults. To a lesser extent I am raising the future. I’m raising…who knows, contributors to great things, to terrible things, future spouses, parents, teachers, politicians. The best advice I could give, if any, which I’m very trepidatious about because parenting is not one size fits all, is this:
Every situation is different, every child is different; what works in my little nest of misfits may not work in yours. What allows my family to thrive could cripple someone else’s. So the advice that I offer is generalized and in no way original or profound. Merely a collection of tips I have been given from moms that I admire.
- Wear Parenting Like A Loose Garment
When plans change or the status quo shifts, (because what worked yesterday may not work today) know that it’s ok. Go with the flow. Yes, you’re probably going to be late…to everything, but that’s alright. You might miss the first five minutes of every movie you go to for the next ten years, but at least you’re not missing out on their childhood.
2.) Kids Crave Boundaries
Hell, humans in general crave boundaries, but since this post is about the mini of the humans, I’ll keep the focus on them. My oldest came into my life at three years old and boundaries unfamiliar to his vocabulary, which was quite large for a three-year old. He has always been incredibly intelligent, but back then, when it came to emotional development or the full spectrum of social skills, he was very much delayed. Part of that had to do with, at the time, undiagnosed mental health issues and learning disabilities. I only experienced my daughter, the freak of nature that she is, being self-containable from birth and only requiring a stern look to alter even the worst of defiant behaviors. So Gunner gave me a run for my money to say the least. He also taught me almost everything I know about parenting. My daughter made me a mother, but he taught me what it meant to be a mom.
When it comes to boundaries I have found that there are a few things to keep in mind.
Expectations, don’t set a bar that can’t be reached. This is definitely a struggle for me, but I do my best to remember that they’re kids, so childish behavior is part of the game. I also like to ask myself often, “Is this age appropriate?”
Consistency, when you say something, mean it. If no doesn’t mean no, then all trust of anything that you say is questionable. When a line does get crossed, there has to be a proportional consequence.
Mom guilt, don’t buy in. All it does is waste time and energy that you would much rather spend on them or self-care. Which brings me to my third.
Self-care is non-negotiable. Like most moms, when it comes to the care of my kids, I find it very black and white, but when it comes to the care of me, there was all kinds of gray. Most of which just translated to, it didn’t happen. Everyone’s heard the expression, “you have to put the oxygen mask on yourself first.” Logically, it makes sense; I can’t take care of anyone if I pass out. But somehow, as moms, as people, as woman especially, we neglect this logical concept that we can’t care for others if we don’t care for ourselves first. So, no matter what shape it takes, make a date or space to spend time on whatever makes your heart glow. Something that benefits only you. Don’t buy into that inner voice screaming that you’re being selfish. Self-care is NOT selfish, it’s self-love.
It’s a necessity to being a productive person, let alone mom. We’ve all seen that person who will do anything for everyone else, running on fumes, hasn’t stopped to look at a mirror let alone take any time for herself. We’ve all been her, hell I am her more times than not and will be again in the future. There are easy steps to make sure that I don’t get to that point, because when I do take the time to do my nails, take my baths, stay up a little later and dye my neglected roots, or just spending 20 minutes writing instead of doing the dishes – my patience is better, I’m more resilient in this ongoing Frisbee game of parenting. Everyone does better when Mom does well. And I think it’s really important to demonstrate that to our kids, that it’s ok to take time for yourself. That the relationship that you have with yourself is one worth investing in. I do not claim to be any kind of expert, especially when it comes to parenting. These are simply the things that I do that result in the days I want to remember.
My last final tip,
4.) Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff
I accepted a long time ago that at some point in their childhood I will f#$k up my kids lives in some unique and special way. However, I don’t have to obsess over whether or not I’m doing “that thing;” that moment that they will talk about for years to come in hundreds of counseling sessions, that I’m not doing that right now. Be easy on yourself, you’re doing great. Even if you don’t feel it. Especially if you don’t feel it. If you think you’re messing up, if you think you are the world’s worst mom, hold solace in the fact that you care enough to work this hard at the world’s hardest job. Here’s to always being outnumbered.