I love having friends with kids older than mine. Granted, I have a stepson who is in middle school, but I have not parented him from the beginning which is a little different. I love when a girlfriend with three children older than mine assures me, “I promise – it does get easier.” It does? When might that be? When they’re able to bathe on their own? Get their own breakfasts and get ready for their day by themselves? For about five minutes last week I turned on HGTV and watched a renovation show I used to love. During those few moments I had this vision of myself getting to do some of my own projects someday or watching a 30-minute show in peace…while the sun is still out. Those days have been gone for so long, I can’t even remember them.
In this crazy age of information overload, there is this pressure to do it all. I can’t. I won’t. If I set myself up for that, I will surely fail. My mind very much works around expectations. If I keep them low, then I know things will be all right. It may sound terrible, but it works for me. If I have it in my head I am going to attend to their every single whim and play with them all day, it is just not realistic unfortunately. I do have a responsibility to manage a house also. With that (as we all know) comes laundry, dishes, cleaning, organizing, bill-paying, cooking and countless other tasks. I can’t just drop everything to play with them all day long.
So instead, when they ask for me to play with them, as they do multiple times a day, I oblige them at least once or twice. Sometimes that looks like playing a board game with my oldest or playing cars or catch with my youngest. I don’t want them to feel like I never play with them, but I also feel it’s important they see that I have other things I must do as part of taking care of them. Sure, there are those days we drop everything and go to the beach unexpectedly or on some other fun adventure. But overall, they know our routine and they know they are in charge of entertaining themselves.
I loved this piece by Jen Hatmaker and especially resonated with this excerpt:
In this age of helicopter parenting, it seems something has gone awry and the pendulum has swung too far in the opposite direction compared to when we were kids. To the direction of accommodating their every request, managing every disappointment, and tending to the smallest of boo-boos. My daughter’s Pre-K teachers told me how kids the past few years lack so much self-sufficiency that they have to teach them how to do every little thing. Some kids even expect the teachers to spoon-feed them their lunches because they don’t know any different.
Instead of analyzing why this troubling trend has arisen, I’m instead making peace with the fact that my kids will grow up figuring out how to do things on their own and learning many of life’s lessons the hard way. I will inevitably fail in many ways at parenting, and they will see that too. We won’t always have it all together. We are allowed to be messy and scattered and have challenging days.
So then, realizing we are imperfect is also a valuable lesson…which can hardly be seen as failing.