It's not like the movies. It's not like the storybooks. And it sure aint what I imagined when I was a little girl playing with my dollies.
Parenting is the toughest, most challenging thing I have ever (or will ever) attempt to do.
I thought the hard part was the sleepless nights and endless pooey nappies. Toddler tantrums, food battles, week-long tummy bugs... surely that was the tough part? Isn't this meant to get easier once they're all at school and can wipe their own bottoms?
But no. The pre-school years are turning out to have been the easy part.
Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined that I would look back on broken sleep and midnight feeds with misty eyes. I would not have believed you if you told me that I would be getting all nostalgic over the days when you never finished a conversation or sat still for second (because every unlatched cupboard and piece of lego on the floor represented life-threatening danger and your children lost their ability to sit when they found their ability to crawl/walk).
Back then, I longed for these days. I looked forward with relish to the idea of my kids clipping their own seatbelts, making their own breakfast, sleeping past 7am.
It's something of a shock to realise that as your children get older, as they advance into the world, parenting gets harder, not easier.
Your voice, your values, your ideas must all compete with the louder and louder voices of the world outside your gate. Your children must leave you every day and navigate their way through the world of school, friendships and the media.
Sometimes you don't recognise that sweet cheeked child whose sticky little hand you used to hold to cross the street in the moody pre-pubescent rebel who is refusing to [insert simple request here].
Sometimes (often) you worry for their future.
You see their strengths, but do others?
You know they're special, but will others?
You see their potential, but will you be able to help them successfully negotiate all the pitfalls between here and adulthood?
Sometimes you feel like the worst-equipped parent in the world.
All the parenting courses, books and talk-shows have not prepared you for the overwhelming responsibility of getting three children (all with their unique struggles) through the minefield of growing up, day-after-grinding-day.
Sometimes you lie awake in your bed at night unable to sleep as you count down the days until puberty hits.
Sometimes you wonder, why on earth did I think I could do this? And how on earth are they going to survive having me as a parent?
At that point the only thing you can do to retain what's left of your sanity is step away from the picture, and list down all the things you have to be grateful for.
The blessings that come with parenting, the absolute goosebumpy thrill of those golden moments when you can heave a sigh and say, "It's going to be worth it," and "I can do this. WE can do this..."
So here is a list of the good stuff. Right off the top of my head, as it comes to me:
The things I'm Grateful for about Being a Parent to My Children Right Now...
- I love the things they come out with. The questions that make you laugh on the inside while you keep a straight face and wink at your husband while you answer...
- I love the way they keep stretching out, getting taller and taller; lanky legs and long limbs (they are heart-throbbingly gorgeous)
- I love their energy, the way they love to run, jump, swing just for the heck of it
- I love the little glimpses of maturity that give a peek into the kind of adults they will one day be - the thoughtfulness and unlooked-for kindness that sometimes takes us by surprise
- I love the little notes that are sometimes left around the place: "Notes to self" and sometimes notes to me. Or to dad. Very sweet.
- I love the cute signs that appear on bedroom doors: "Boys Keep out" and "My room is out of order between 9am and 3pm" from the same funny little person who writes the notes. Which brings me to...
- Daughters. I love them. I only have one, and she is a revelation. Naturally empathetic, often selfless, she'll be the one who gets us the sunny room in the retirement home.
- Childish hilarity. Children naturally want to laugh, enjoy themselves, have fun. Often the mischief they cause is while on a quest for "said laughter". We serious anxious groan-ups could learn a lot from them
- Unexpected helpfulness. Sometimes my kids surprise me. With a cup of tea. Or a rush to pick up whatever has dropped. This helpfulness is a wonderful treasure. It's in there, somewhere. And when I least expect it, there it is, making my day.
- Hugs. And kisses. My lot are rather affectionate, so I am never short of cuddles, huggles, snuggles and more kisses than I actually need.
- I'm grateful they know how to behave themselves for other people. I need not fear when they go to parties, to a friends house etc. I know they will remember their manners. They might not always remember them at home, but at least they use them on the rest of the world.
- Grateful for growing independence. Though this independence can be rather terrifying at times, it is also a wonderful testament to the fact they my kids are learning to manage themselves. Get themselves ready in the morning. Walk to and from school. Make themselves a snack. Tidy their rooms when pushed. Take regular showers, change their undies, clean their teeth. Something is getting through.
- I'm grateful I'm not alone in this parenting boat. I have a bunch of wonderful parent-friends who are all on the same parenting journey. They are quick to encourage, eager to share ideas, non-judgemental and altogether a blessing. I am grateful for them.
- I am grateful that I AM a parent. Difficult, challenging and anxious-making as it can be, I wouldn't swap it for a life of unencumbered travel or endless gala events. Tough as it can be, I wouldn't have it any other way. (I think. No, I'm sure. Truly.)
So my fellow parents, we're in this together. We're not alone. You're not alone. I'm not alone.
If we can encourage each other and share our struggles instead of feeling the need to compete or compare, I think our parenting job would be a whole lot less stressful.
And if we can remind ourselves, that somehow we survived our childhoods and our parents, and if we're doing the best we can, surely our kids will survive us too.
What about you? Thoughts, anyone?
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