The greatest teachers that I have ever encountered in my near 30 years on the planet are my children.
I will be the first to admit that parenthood is not always easy. The things that we are told we will take for granted, the times that countless songs and articles promise we are going to miss? Certainly we will miss these times once our children are grown, but when little ones are screaming, usually at each other, and milk/juice/other liquids are spilling on to your brand new carpet, it’s a lot more difficult to think to yourself, “these are times I am going to miss.” Rather, the first thought that enters our head is usually, “is it bedtime yet?”
Whether we are stay at home parents, or working parents, the challenge is the same, and the truth is this. We are all tired. At the end of the day, there are still clothes that need to be folded, more loads of laundry that need to be done. There are still dishes that need to be washed and trash that needs to be discarded. As I type this, I am currently sitting next to a laundry basket of clothes that need to be folded..and that is only one of three baskets..yikes.
While we love our children in spite of their tantrums, and the many hours they can keep us up at night refusing to go to bed, we as parents also need time to recharge our own batteries. Knowing this, I want to offer some lessons that my children have taught me in my six years as their student..perhaps these apply to you too.
Parent the child you were given, not the child that you thought you should have- When I became a parent for the first time, my lack of experience raising another person was apparent. I knew my little boy was a bundle of energy, as I had been advised boys would be, but I didn’t realize how spirited he truly was. My big man would not stay still. He would run, jump, scream, throw toys..I thought he was out of control and I tried to force him in to a box of perfect manners and well behaved interactions..and he was miserable. What I didn’t realize at the time was that my son was not spirited in the sense that he would not listen. He is this way because he is incredibly intelligent, funny, outgoing and sensitive. Once I realized that I should parent him as the person he was, and not the person I thought society wanted him to be, we were both a lot happier.
Embrace the mess- I crave order, and cleanliness. I attribute this to my mother, as she instilled in me when I was growing up that I should maintain a clean room. That is why, when realizing exactly how much of a mess two children can produce, I nearly had a heart attack. Toys were strewn across the expanse of carpet in the boys’ room. Clothes were thrown haphazardly across the tile floor of the bathroom and socks were tossed absentmindedly behind the couch and under the cushions. Seeing the figurative tornado before me, I was overwhelmed. The mess had consumed the house, and I didn’t know where to began. I set off in a cleaning frenzy, and at the end, found myself not only exhausted but resentful of the toys..the clothes..the mess. It was then that I realized this (with the help of my husband, for pointing it out). As long as children live within our home, it will never be completely clean. Real life does not look like an immaculate magazine spread of a home. Real life looks lived in. Real life equals toys in places other than the toy-box, clothes that will always need to be folded (if your laundry baskets are empty and all of your clothes are folded, please come to my house), and dishes that will always need to be washed/put away.
Don’t cry over spilled milk- Literally. I can recall one particular instance, when after walking my large black Lab, my son asked for a cup of milk. I willingly agreed, certain that I could handle both tasks with ease. With the lip of the collar handle wrapped around my wrist, I pulled a cup from the cupboard and retrieved the gallon of milk from the fridge. As I gingerly began to pour the milk in to the awaiting cup, all 65 pounds of my dog decided to pull on the leash, and the cup, lid and milk tumbled everywhere, covering my kitchen floor, legs and feet. I could feel the familiar lump of impending tears well in my throat when I saw my toddler standing at the edge of the kitchen, watching the scene unfold. Watching to see how I would react. When I saw how this very moment might be defined in his eyes, I choose not to cry. We laughed instead, and then we let the dog lick the milk currently forming separate puddles on the floor.
Know it will not always be easy- If parenthood were easy, and fit in to a tidy box, articles upon articles would not be written about it. Moms and dads would always be perfectly dressed, houses would always be clean and children would always be happy. Meltdowns would never happen, and trips to the grocery store would feel like vacations. Outings to restaurants would be enjoyable, and no food would ever end up on the floor.
Great image right?
But completely unrealistic. Because parenting is messy. Parenting does not come with a manual..there are no instructions for how to raise children. As long as we are ensuring our children know they are loved, we are doing the best we can. If at the end of the day, you don’t feel like crying, that’s always a bonus ;).
Parenthood is forever evolving. I will not claim to be an expert. I too, am learning as I go along. The course that we call life is a never ending test, and we aren’t always given the material ahead of time. I can however, promise you this. The greatest lessons we learn are from the most unlikely of teachers.