Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Parenting (some navel gazing and thinking that no one asked me about)

"Just wait, it gets worse. Enjoy it now."

If you're a parent, you've heard that about whatever stage of life your kid is in, and it's crap, really.

My theory on parenting difficulty is this: the average never changes but the variance does. Picture parenting difficulty as a graph over time. In my experience (as a parent and as the kid to some parents), it looks like this:

Babies are hard, but predictably and managably so. They're the marathons of parenting. Every single second there's something going on that requires your parenting decision making, but mostly those decisions are not terribly difficult. "Should I feed my child again? Should I change the diaper? Should I keep mosquitoes and bees and spiders off of my kid?" Yes. Yes you should.  And if your kid is upset or things seem difficult, parents of babies are given a lot of sympathy (and annoying free advice, but that's going to be a constant).

As the kids get older, the difficulty starts to vary. Sometimes they're super easy ("Look, he's been coloring for an hour! Look, she's totally happy just doing her Legos!) and the rewards are higher, but when they aren't easy, it's also a bigger deal with more judgment (tantrums at the store, running into the street, hitting and biting other kids, etc.)

As you move through elementary school and into high school, the variance just gets more extreme. Easy days or weeks are just magical but the hard stuff gets uglier and more intense, too. Failing classes, life-changing decisions with friends and loves and substance abuse, car crashes and milestone accomplishments. Parents and kids are judged based on these extremes and frequencies.  And parents of college and adult kids see the biggest possible challenges spaced out between (hopefully) longer periods of smooth sailing.

And as the kids get older, these challenges become harder to answer with confidence. What should be done about those failing grades? How much should we interfere with consequences of bad decisions like failing a test or losing a job or getting a ticket? How much should we help with arguments between friends, and if we do help, what is the right thing to even suggest? Questions about life, love, friendships, career goals... let's be honest, we're still trying to figure this stuff out for ourselves! When dealing with things like "Should I ignore this bully or confront them?" it's easy to see why we mourn for the days of the obvious: "Don't hit your sister."

But I think it's unfair to call it harder. It's different. Parenting Maryna is definitely different in its challenges, risks, highs, and lows than the current stages of parenting Katie or Jorge or Auggie.  They all come down to the same main issue, though, across time: "How much do I let go and let them figure this out; and how much do I try to fix it for them?" Whether it's a baby fussing to sleep or a 5th grader worrying about a last minute project or a teenager balancing too many responsibilities and some risky choices or an adult child losing a job, the difficulty of wanting to help while raising an individual is a constant balancing act.

2 comments:

  1. think i will stick with it,s worse when they are older,even i can change a diaper,fix some of those other problems ,not so much................dad

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  2. The older they get,the worse it is.When you can no longer seem to influence them or help them get past very trying times,it hurts so bad.You feel as if you have failed as a parent.You can only live with it.

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