These aren’t really good news, but at least they’ll set the bar a little more accurately. Most of us spend a lot of time comparing ourselves to other parents, seeing what everyone else posts on social media, and thinking we’re doing a pretty awful job. New parents want to grab the world by the tail and avoid all the mistakes their parents made and all their friends are making. Hopefully these six words of “wisdom” will offer some perspective and maybe a little boost. If they don’t now file them away.
Just buckle up and get ready for it. If you do not feel like a failure you probably don’t care enough. If you care you will disappoint yourself. You will fear that you’re screwing your kids up. You will beat yourself up for not being patient enough or listening well enough or reading enough stories or kicking enough soccer balls. You will wonder if you’re pointing your kids the right way. You will be exhausted and that will compound everything else.
Just remember – parenting is not a formula so your mistakes will not irreparably damage your children or your relationship with them. If you want to know why and get a bit of a boost skip to #s 4 and 5.
Puppies can be trained in a matter of weeks. Kids can’t. Kids take 18 years and then you release them into the world without a fully formed frontal lobe and with a hope and a prayer they won’t botch things. They do not listen (but they hear everything). They do not think before acting (but they can argue their case like Jake Brigance to get out of trouble or get cookies). They pay no attention to anything around them (and yet they somehow notice everything). They will frustrate the fire out of you with the sheer amount of stupid they produce on a given day. You will find yourself asking them “why did you do that?” so often the words lose all meaning. SO just don’t ask. The reason is this: they are kids and they are dumb.
Given the lack of listening and the overall dumbness you will say the same flipping things over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over again. And then it will be lunch time. After a while you will enter a different dimension from which you will observe a haggard parent saying for the 274th time that day “put that down, clean that up, stop making that noise” and you will wonder why they don’t quit. And then you will realize it is you and you will feel, once again, like a parenting dunce.
Some good news. All your failures, or perceived failures, as a parent will not ruin your child. Maybe it’s a positive side effect of being kind of dumb, but kids forget and move on from a parent’s blow-ups and collapses in mere minutes. It takes a truly poisonous atmosphere to ruin a child, and if you love them and try they will be just fine. Kids were designed by God to charge ahead, leaving behind the crap you’re wallowing in. They fall and get up literally and figuratively. If they know you have their back and some regular hugs nothing keeps a kid down. And you should take your cues from them. If they bounce back, so should you.
Despite your many failures your child will always have a hug for you. They will always be happy when you come home from work or a trip. They will practically break their face grinning when you come to get them out of the crib in the morning. They will run right to you when they are hurt or excited. A parent’s kiss is magic medicine for a bruise or scrape of both knee and spirit. Even a reserved child is a fountain of affection for dad and mom. They will assume that your judgment is correct, your word is true, and your presence is faithful. All dumbness you feel about yourself will never, ever cross their minds (before adolescence).
Aside: The only time this isn’t true is if parents are truly awful. Awfully distant. Awfully abusive. Awfully absent. Awfully dishonest. Your child can forgive you and trust you for all your human failings. But if you choose to live a life that actively hurts them you will find their limits. And that is the saddest thing.
Never be ashamed or afraid to say you’re sorry. Many of the times your children may look at you like you’re talking French because they didn’t think anything of your forgetfulness or outburst. But every time you apologize and ask for forgiveness you reinforce their love and trust. You model how to handle mistakes and poor judgment – which they will exhibit in abundance. You show them humility and reinforce the course you hope to set them on. A parent who doesn’t apologize sets her kids up to distance themselves as they grow in awareness and sensitivity. A parent who does apologize creates realistic expectations and an environment for her kids to always be close.