Happy Easter! -- just a bit late. I wrote this on Easter, but evidently, it didn't actually get posted!
Today's Easter Bunny brought me a moment to spend on facebook, where I was directed to this post on parenting.
It's a great post on parenting. (really -- go read it) But... it limits itself unduly.
Everything he said is true. And everything he said still applies to bigger children.
My girls are in high school. One graduates in less than two months. The other, who skipped a grade, and thus is already younger than her class-mates, has gotten her ducks in a row to graduate a semester early. So... in 2014, I will have no high school students.
But they are not "grown," and they continue to pose the various types of challenges that children pose. They push boundaries -- the way kids do. The way kids need to do in order to grow, and learn, and be able to function in the world around them. Of course, they also need to honor boundaries sometimes. And like all kids, they are better at that some times than they are at others.
There are those who say that it is the nature of a teenager to behave horribly towards their parents. They say that teenagers are "crazy". I'd even agree, to some extent, since I realize that they are in the throes of rewiring their brains (I was going to embed part of the video from here, but something's not working - I've left it here in case it gets fixed on their end).
As if the rewiring thing isnt' enough, they're also trying to navigate the impossible journeys of hormones and peer-relationships. But I have known teenagers who were civil human beings all the way through the "bad years" and remain lovely people to this day.
And thus, I too face those moments when, if someone told me to "treasure every minute" because it "goes too fast" I'd have to squelch the urge to whallop them upside the head with the nearest heavy object.
Every single day, I say to myself "I am not a terrible parent, even if their current behavior towards me is atrocious beyond reckoning." I have to remind myself that they' are evolutionarily programmed to do a separation dance so that when they're "grown" and otherwise ready, we're both willing to have them leave the nest. I need to be ready to see them gone, and they need to be ready to step away from the safety of home. Some days, I"m really ready. Some days none of us are.
At least once a day, I remind myself that "I am not an evil worthless brainless non-caring person, no matter what they say." Again, that separation thing kicks in, and they accuse me of not caring (mostly because I'm not doing what they want, or when they want or something. I know I care. I'm pretty sure they know I care. But they forget, and are rude about it. It's not a fun place to be.
Several times I week, I remind myself that "I DID teach them manners and values and...' And even though they don't always practice those things in front of me, I do learn from other parents that my girls are polite, respectful, courteous. It's good to know that they can pull that off outside in the real world. And I have confidence, that once this separation dance is over, they'll be able to do it consistently at home too.
Every single day, I remind myself that perfection isn't a realistic goal. I remind myself that at every step of the way I did the best I could with what was available to me at the time, and that sometimes, cope is just unavailable. If you take nothing else from this post, take that -- perfection is not a reasonable or realistic goal at any time when you're dealing with human beings.
At least once a week, I remind myself that it does not constitute parenting failure if your kid doesn't have the latest gadget that her friend has, or that she has to wear last month's clothes or that you let her spend her own money on clothes when she never tells you what she needs.
As The Actual Pastor said:
"You are not a terrible parent if the sound of their voices sometimes makes you want to drink and never stop.
"You’re not a terrible parent.
"You’re an actual parent with limits. You cannot do it all. We all need to admit that one of the casualties specific to our information saturated culture is that we have sky-scraper standards for parenting, where we feel like we’re failing horribly if we"
haven't gotten them to do chores reliably, or keep their rooms clean, or remember to clean up after themselves, or even remember to say please and thank you when they ask to to drive them somewhere and pay for things they want to do, and we let things slide.
Those other parents whose children DO do the dishes? They're dealing with something else. Their kids are no more perfect than yours or mine.
Every so often, some other parent tells me how polite my children are, or otherwise lets me know that out there, in the public eye, they're okay. I relish those moments.
And every so often, when I see someone out there in the real world doing some good parenting, I pause and tell them so. I know how much it feels like you'll never get it right sometimes.
We joke about setting the bar too high, and tell our brilliant, lovely daughters that really, if setting the bar at graduating high-school without getting arrested or pregnant is too high, they should let us know.
But it's also true ... that even though parenting teenagers, like parenting small children, is a perpetual challenge for which the media has set the bar beyond the reach of any actual human parents ... I regularly get little moments when I see the adults they're going to become, and I'm proud and tickled.
And every day. EVERY day, I love my girls.
Every day, if I but pause, and relax, and let go of the current frustration, I know that I'm living with two amazing, talented, beautiful young women