I don’t know about you, but when I was young, I couldn’t wait to grow up, get married and have a baby.
That image was so appealing: the
freshly-soaped and powdered scent, the gurgling smiles, the naps on my tummy.
I truly wanted a baby.
I never considered wanting a toddler, a
preteen, or a teenager, for heaven’s sake! And I didn’t realize at the time
that it was a package deal. Somehow, I missed the fine print. I must have been
in some ‘Baby Powder” haze.
My husband and I were young, and eager to
get started. We had grand notions of growing up with our child, ‘being
friends as well as parents.’ We planned to be kind but strict. Oh, I had it
all worked out in my mind. I once saw a preschooler at a grocery store who
laid in the floor, kicking and screaming at the top of his lungs,
because his mom wouldn’t buy him what he wanted. “Oh, no, no,” I
thought. “My child will never do that.”
I was right.
At least--it wasn’t in a grocery store, anyway. It was in a filthy convenience
store just down the street from where we lived. My Melanie plopped herself down
on top of that disgusting black and white(ish) tile and began to pitch a fit
that would have embarrassed Dennis the Menace. My mouth dropped open. (By the
way, instant recall does work perfectly at a time like
With three kids--two girls and one boy--there was a giant
learning curve I had to live through. I had to be taught that children
try to kill themselves. It’s true. With forks and vans and animals
and roofs and so many other ingenious devices. I learned that you spend
a lot of time on your knees. And running. Someone once said, “Deciding to have
a child is like deciding forever to have your heart go walking around outside of
your body.” I think that sums it up rather well.
A couple of
My two-year-old, Riley, totaled our family van
(you read correctly)
My sixteen-year-old, Melanie, totaled her vehicle
three-year-old, Tanner, decorated the new, white carpet with blue and red
permanent markers (my fault. what was I thinking? white carpet?)
the children – (not saying who) dropped the family dog off the top of the stairs
to see if it would land on its feet like a cat.
One of the children – (not
saying who) painted the newly finished hardwood
Fast forward twenty-six years. I don’t have babies
anymore. Mine are all rather large people now. But I know a lot more than when
I started. Now that it doesn’t matter. [sigh]
If you’re interested,
I’ll pass on a couple of things I’ve learned in these very
The key thing we discovered is that we’re
the parents. We were not put here to be friends or buddies to our kids. They
have a whole host of people, generally speaking, clamoring for that job.
Unfortunately, there are only two…count them, TWO…who can ever serve the
roles we’ve been given. If we abdicate, it creates huge holes in a child’s
life. Regardless of what they say now, regardless of what their friends’
parents are doing, your children need parents who
We also learned not to train our children to
disobey us. Sound strange? When the kids were young, we had a habit of
counting to three before unleashing our ‘wrath’. Have you ever done this? (I
see heads nodding.) If you’ve noticed, your child may continue doing what they want until you get to that magic number three.
(And…have you ever found yourself saying in frustration…..”two and a
halllllf”?) One day, we realized we were actually giving our children an extra
count of 2 or more to disobey us! Therefore, it was so-long to counting to
three! [There were other subtle areas where we did this, too. For example: 1.)
“Don’t you give grandma any of daddy’s hugs! Don’t you do it!” 2.) “Well,
we’ll do it just this once, and we don’t have to tell Daddy.
It’ll be our secret.”] It’s definitely something to think about.
onto your hats for this one: We were surprised to learn that our kids
wanted discipline. I know – crazy! But the world is a big place, and
it’s nice to know where the boundaries are. It makes you feel safe. As
parents, we clearly laid out the ground rules, and shared what the consequences would
be. But then, I can remember several occasions when the kids came in and admitted
something to us….We were so proud of them for being open and honest, we were
willing to forego the punishment. Invariably, they would remind
us! 'Don’t you remember what you said?' And the punishment would be meted
Another thing I’ve realized is that we need to let our kids
learn-and-do as much as possible without our help or interference. In fact, our
whole ‘job’ as a parent is to prepare them to be independent, and to no
longer need us. In the book, “Sacajawea,” by Anna Lee Waldo there’s a
rather harsh example of this theory.
While on the trail with Lewis and
Clark, Sacajawea gave birth to a baby boy. (Amazingly, she never let his
presence slow her down.) One night, as the group was resting at camp, Clark noticed the little boy was easing his way toward the
center fire, fascinated by the flames. Clark watched carefully, waiting for the
child’s mother to stop him. Sacajawea watched as well, but did
Finally, Clark couldn’t stand it any longer. He jumped up and
shouted at Sacajawea to rescue the child before he was burned. The calm Indian
woman shook her head. “If I tell him no, he will resent me and yet still be
intrigued by the fire,” she said. “But if he touches the flames for himself, he
will learn that they are hot and the lesson will be that much
Clark was dumbfounded at that reasoning, and me, too, a
little bit. But then I see some mothers who help their children with every
step, every sip, every movement, and I understand the logic.
learned that “No’s” should be precious and few. When your child asks for
something, really think about it before you answer. If at all
possible, say yes, especially if it means you’ll be involved in an activity with
them. And when you do say No, be ready to back it up, because it’s the
consistency that matters.
For example, you told little Leah
that she couldn’t have a snack before supper, but while you’re in the living
room watching your favorite TV show you hear her come toddling past. She’s
covered in chocolate. Oops! But, your show is at the best part…and
she does look so cute. You glance from the TV to Leah and from Leah to
the TV. Finally, you say, “Okay, I’m going to let it slide this time, but next
time, it’ll be big trouble, understand? Now, go wash your hands.” Then you
make sure you throw in a stern look.
Leah just learned a lesson.
She can get away with anything when mommy’s watching her show! Hurray!
Party-time in kid-Land!
So, choose your Noes carefully. Ask yourself:
‘Am I willing to enforce this no-matter-what?’ The good news is that it won’t
take long to train your kids that when you say it, you mean it. If you act on
it. Every time. Without fail. (Now that’s for the moms who are starting
out. Sadly, it takes a little longer to RE-train.)
Well, those are some
of the highlights. Yes, parenting is a big job and a thankless one.
And it often feels like that terrifying moment when a paratrooper has just been
pushed out the door of a rushing airplane at ten thousand feet. But there are
those moments…those heart-stopping moments when you can barely breathe because
your whole body is so filled with love, joy, and pride.
It is worth
it? The baby? Who becomes a teenager? Who becomes an adult? Who gets
married? Who…. Oh yes. Heavens, yes. And I highly recommend