During a recent conversation with a mummy friend, we were sharing our thoughts on how the world today is a pretty scary place to bring up our kids in. Stories of kidnapping, child abuse, pedophilia and school bullying abound, not to mention the very real threat of terrorism that is always closer to home than we think. And on a more personal level, the fact that our kids are now at the age when they spend close to half of their waking hours in school, and that is a huge chunk of time when we parents have no control whatsoever over who they will meet, what they will talk about, what they will see and how they will choose.
“It feels like he isn’t just growing up – he’s growing away,” I said to my friend. And it’s true – he makes so many little decisions on his own now – what to eat at recess, for example, and whether to play ball with A or watch fishes with B – and sometimes, just sometimes, he pulls his hand out of mine when we are reaching the school gate.
“I can walk by myself, mummy,” he says. Cue mummy heart break.
Of course the really big/important decisions, or so we think, are still within our control. But, truthfully, not for long. And the fact is, it’s the many, many little decisions that weigh in on the big ones, don’t you think? The ways our kids practice making these seemingly small or inconsequential decisions now will determine how they learn to make the big rock decisions when they are older.
Similarly, the way we engage and interact with our children now, when they are young, will have significant impact on how they will relate to us when they have outgrown our laps.
Time spent with our children now, while they are young, may feel exhausting, frustrating and confusing at times. The days can pass in a blur – the nights too, for that matter! – and at the end of the day, we may slump to the floor and wonder What on earth am I doing? What have I accomplished today? And it feels like Nothing. is the answer.
But it’s not nothing.
Right now is when we are building precious moments into our children’s memories and ours’. Beautiful times, bittersweet ones too; connections that are more lasting and important than the actual experiences we have encountered together, a trust that goes beyond proof and words but that is deeply felt and understood.
Whenever I feel like the day has hit me like a ton of bricks and I want to give up this mothering gig (well, at least for an hour), I tell myself that, “this, too, shall pass.”
If not me, then who?
This moment matters. How I react matters. God, please help me.
Yes, the challenging moments, the hair-pulling frustrations, these will change and disappear over time. But these are stepping stones, building blocks in our journey of parenting. They are not wanted, neither are they enjoyable, but they are necessary – both for our children and us – and they count.
Dear fellow parents in the trenches, how we relate to our kids matters – not in their teenage years, not when they can cross the road and talk about life issues with their old man, but right now.
The baby years. Toddlerhood. Preschool. Primary school. That teenager. The young adult.
Seven years ago, we didn’t hire a confinement nanny when I gave birth to David, because I wanted to do things on my own, and I didn’t want to fight/argue with a stranger over traditions I don’t agree with. Ask me now, though, and I’ll admit that those were some very tough first few weeks to struggle through. The hubs and I were running on very little sleep, overwhelmed with a new sense of responsibility and uncertainty, and sometimes completely lost as to what to do when baby couldn’t be soothed. But still, we survived.
And I’d like to say that I’m glad we chose this route, difficult as it was. Because it taught me a parenting principle that has become a rock of sorts that I cling to now in moments when I am feeling overwhelmed as a parent.
This, too, will pass.
How I respond now matters.
Struggling is hard, but we are struggling together. I’m not alone.
One day, I will see how this mattered.
My child just needs me to love him the best way that I can right now.
I know we have a very long way to go as parents. We have barely bitten off the starting end of the stick, and we have much to learn from parents who have kids in their primary, teen and young adult years. The world will continue to be a scary place, and may become even more so in the years ahead. But rather than only worrying about the future and wondering how to protect my child, I just need to do what I can right now.
Love the best that I can right now.
Teach the principles and life skills that I can right now.
Hug and hold my child right now.
Discipline in love while I can right now.
Set boundaries that I can right now.
Help him make choices right now.
Learn to let go of his hand, yes that too, right now.