Tuesday, January 8, 2013

What Every New Parent Should Know

I've been thinking a lot about parenting lately. I guess that's what six kids will do for you. ;)  I'm at an age where many of my peers are pregnant with #1 or #2, cuddling newborns, or sleep deprived and chasing after toddlers.  I expect that some envy us with 2 kids at a babysitting age and the others old enough to function without constant supervision.  After all, we must have it pretty easy now! 

And I'll admit it - it is pretty nice.  I tend to get woken up more frequently by my dogs these days than I do by my kids!

But this parenting thing - is it easier?  Ummm... nope.

Those first few years slip by faster than you can believe.  One moment, you are examining those almost-translucent eyelids while your sweetheart snoozes through his third nap of the day.  The next, your dressing him up for his first day of school. Before you know it, it's time for team sports and dances and cell phones.  And as your children get bigger, their problems get bigger.  And their choices (and yours) have greater consequences. 

One moment they want to tell us every detail of their day, from what their teacher ate during snack time to what library book they might want, to what they WISH we could have for dessert. And you think you might just scream if you hear one more "and then THIS happened..!"  But before you know it, you are forcibly pulling out even bare-bones details. And you worry that you don't have enough information to be a good parent. Because you never have enough information. You can't keep up on who is dating who, who is best friends with who, what so-and-so said, how bad was that math test, etc. You will never fully understand they level of drama that your child is going through.  Or they assume you don't/can't, which amounts to the same thing.  

And there can be this constant, low level of worry. What if I screw up? What if I should have called him out on this? What if I should have trusted her more about that? What if I had asked this question or been there for this event? What if what if what if. What if I had done more. Why didn't I see this coming.

I just remember the sleepless nights, rubbing a baby's back and praying she might fall back to sleep. Frantically looking for the "binky" to calm her down.  Scheduling around nap times and hauling a huge diaper bag everywhere and knowing that I just needed to hang in there. It would get easier, I would get to sleep again and it would be easier.

But it doesn't.

That's not to say that it gets worse, however.  

I am actually not a baby person. I love that my kids are all old enough to have dance parties and deep conversations (well, some deeper than others) and can get themselves dressed and most can even cut their own meat. :) But now that they are well on their way physically, I worry about their souls even more. I worry about a boy breaking my sweet girls' hearts. I worry about a catty "friend" with too many harsh words.  I worry about bullies on the school bus and the stress of academics for my kids that struggle in school.  I worry about their hearts. I want to protect them.  I want to put them in a metaphorical car seat, buckle them in tight and know that they are safe.

But I can't. Because growing up does mean letting go.  Letting them have their hearts broken and their feelings hurt, their pride stamped on and their dreams dashed. That's living.  That's growing. That's allowing them to become their own person. 

And it's one of the hardest things I've ever done.  And they just don't explain that part in the books.

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