Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Parenting: What they don't tell you.

Before I had children, I was absolutely certain of all the things I would and would not do.


Cloth diapers
Homemade baby food
Gentle words only
Militant Scheduling
Love every moment of the day

Would nots:

No Video Games
No McDonalds
No yelling
No dating

Before I had children, I knew in my heart that my children would always eat their vegetables, never say a naughty word, never disregard family rules, and, finally, always accept my words in blind understanding that I, as parent, have much to offer their limited scope. I would never raise my voice or say irrational hurtful things, after all, I am parent. I am educated, sophisticated, and above all, I've watched all these other folks fail miserably. Learn by example, right?

Fail. Big fat hairy fail.

For a few years, I've beaten myself up by my failure to achieve the perfect home and family life. I've seen the facebook posts of "perfect" families with their tidy Sunday dress and their clean faced children hugging them tightly in perfectly lit photos. This is clearly not me nor my children. Where did I go wrong? But wait...

Those digital illusions are not meant to give a clear representation of what is family, and I have figured out, as I hope you have too, that digital life is not what is really going around us. It is not for me, and, I bet, it is not for you.

In my house, there are days when my children eat cake for breakfast.
In my house, there are days when people yell, cry, and slam doors.
In my house, there are hurt feelings, sour faces, and painful words spoken.
In my house, children may dig through laundry to find a shirt.  There are unflushed toilets, fingerprints on everything, dishes needing to be washed, and the occasional injury made by a sibling. This is my family. I apologize for the accusation, and maybe you truly don't relate. But today, I assume this, sometimes, is your family, too.

What they don't tell you is though the all-night diaper changes and bottle feedings exhaust you, parenting goes far beyond those first sweet moments. As you struggle to maintain your plans for your children, a journey is beginning of which you cannot prepare.

Parenting is the endeavor to rip your heart out of your body and watch it make mistakes, watch it get hurt, watch it walk away from you all the while longing to pull it back into your chest and save your heart from the world. Parenting is pride-filled joy in your heart's successes with new dresses and touch downs and a 97 percent in algebra after an all-night cramfest/ complete emotional breakdown. Parenting is when you pour your life into a person who will eventually find meaning and love and fulfillment from someone with another name. Parenting is raising a child to become someone different from all your plans, all your dreams, and all your prayers, and yet, even in major disappointments and majors successes you would never change the heart that was once pulled from your chest. You love. In loss and in gain, you love. In hurt and in joy, you love.

Parenting can send your soul soaring above the clouds in pride and can slam you to the floor in an eye-gushing pleading prayer.

This is what you may never read in any "What to expect" book.

Plan your woulds and would nots with joy and anticipation, but never beat yourself up for walking away from the woulds and would nots to walk this journey with the rest of us who truly have no idea what we are doing. You will not be the first to give up on homemade baby food. You will not be the last to praise God for Pampers. There are bigger hills to climb ahead.

And when you reach those hills and deep valleys, I hope you call your mom or dad. I hope you say, "wow, guys, parenting is tough. Thank you for all you've done for me." If by chance you don't have a mom or dad to call, call another parent who has already walked this road. Chances are they will listen and hug you and remind you that you are not the first to wake up one day realizing that you have no clue what you are doing.

In this occupation of parent, it is perfectly acceptable to admit failure, to change plans, and to recognize our complete incompetence. Raising a human being is a difficult endeavor. What they don't tell you is that the most difficult roads are often the most life-changing. For better or worse, you will not learn everything about your child, but you will learn a lot about yourself.


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