When I was pregnant with Ava I was excited to have a baby. This baby was totally abstract, of course, since I had no experience with kids. I would do all the things you did with babies. I would rock her, and dress her up in immaculate outfits, and take pictures of her eating her first bowl of rice cereal. I would know just how to parent, just like I knew just how to be a good wife (Hah!).
Every knows everything about something before they know anything about it, it seems to me. Myself included. Before I was a parent I knew everything about how to be the perfect one.
Which is totally laughable now! After Ava and Jace and Eli were born I was pregnant with Seth and I thought "This time, this time it will be easy." I figured we'd been there, done that, made mistakes, and that now I would have figured out how to do it all really well. And then Seth was born, and almost every bit of parenting knowledge I had when out the window, because he required a completely different skill set than the first two. From almost his first breath, he required a wholly different parenting style than I had ever used. I often say that Seth is my attachment parenting baby, and it wasn't by choice. Whatever the reason, Seth needed more from me than either Ava or Jace ever had. On the first day of preschool for both of them they ran into the classroom without a backward look. With Seth, there are times when I still have to convince him he'll have a nice time and no one will torture him.
Then Evany came along, and she was and is more independent than any one of them. And my parenting style shifted all over again. While each of my children have similarities, there are more differences between them than you can shake a stick at. While I know many people ascribe to one parenting philosophy for all of their kids, one type of discipline, one plan, I don't know if it's that simple. These kids are people, after all. And people are different from each other.
A friend of mine from high school commented on my facebook one day and said that he though, given that I had a bunch of little kids, I should teach parenting classes. "What's your parenting philosophy?" He asked me.
I laughed and responded. "My parenting philosophy? Don't let them die."
The fact of the matter is not one of us is going to be that perfect parent. No matter which philosophy of parenting we choose to follow, parents are going mess up. We fail our kids. In big and little ways. Whether we miss the big game or say "hang on, in a minute" one to many times because we're busy with something else, they are going to be disappointed in us someday. It's hard to be selfless enough, to give everything to your kids, and it just doesn't occur to children to expect anything less. Selfishness creeps in because that's what selfishness does.
So I know I will never be the perfect parent. My temper is too quick, my attention span too short. I hate crafts. Sometimes I forget to record the important moments. Sometimes I lose their teeth before the tooth fairy can collect them. But I can do my best to keep them safe, and healthy, and alive. I have high expectations for them, because I believe firmly that people often live up to your expectations, whether they high or low. And then, I can do one better and try to make sure that I consciously engage them more than I inadvertently disappoint them and teach them along the way. About God. About life and people and grammar and history and maybe even some math. Parenting is hard. It doesn't get easier. There seems to be an inverse correlation between less diapers to change and more attitude. It is, and always will be, both the best and hardest thing I have ever done.
And it is, I'm completely sure, something I will never, ever, know everything about. I'm also just as completely sure that it is the thing I will most enjoy learning for the rest of my days. I'm so blessed to be these kids mother...I really hope that one day, they same thing about me being their mom! (And if not, I hope they at least say that I was entertaining!)
18 hours ago