Rule #105: Every parent is perfect… until they have kids.
If you’re a parent, you feel me on this one. You probably had a whole slew of ideas and pictures in your head of what life would be like with littles. Picturesque walks in the park, laughing while playing board games, the messy faces after eating ice cream, etc. I know I definitely had those ideas. And they’ve all come true, just not as perfectly as I’d imagined with “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” playing in the background. My kids would NEVER talk back to me. My kids would NEVER throw a fit in public. My kids would NEVER rip a book out of their great grandmother’s hand because they didn’t want to share it with her (true story, bro). NEVER.
And then God said, “Hold my beer.”
I was a teacher for 6 years, 4 in middle school and 2 in elementary school. I loved those kids. I loved being part of their every day lives, making them laugh, and watching their faces light up when something clicked for them. I also loved the thought that if I could teach kids, then I could definitely parent them. I mean, if I can control 60 middle school kids with the sound of my Teacher Voice, surely I can control one 3 year old, right? Ha! Sucker…
Before I go any further, I have to say that Corey is an amazing kid. He makes me laugh every day. His infectious love for baseball is something I’ve never seen in a kid his age. He has a gentle spirit. He’s a people pleaser. He would rather sit back and watch than jump in and do. He gives the best hugs and smooches I’ve ever had. I love that boy more than words can say. This isn’t a rant about how “bad” he is, but more of an admission that I thought I knew it all until I had kids.
I did it. I judged people. I judged those parents in the grocery store with their screaming toddler. “Geez. How embarrassing. My kids will NEVER do that.” And then one bright, shiny day, when I’m 7 months pregnant with Brooke, I find myself carrying my toddler kicking and screaming from a playdate. I became that parent.
God has a funny way of humbling you like that. He gave me the one little boy in the world He knew I needed. I need to be challenged. I need to be on my toes. I get bored if things are too easy. So, He gave me Corey. My smart, witty, stubborn, and perfectly imperfect baby boy. Parenting Corey has made me show more grace to other parents in whatever struggle they are going through. I find myself sympathizing with parents whose kids have special needs, allergies, sensory issues, etc. in ways I couldn’t understand before I was a parent myself. You gain a lot of respect for those who can handle it all and with a smile on their face. It’s also made me realize even more how wonderful my own parents and in-laws are. Raising kids is not the cakewalk I’d imagined. And I’m grateful for it. The beauty is in the imperfect moments.
When it comes to those imperfect moments, I can assure you that we have used every trick in the book. This is not a plea for suggestions. I have come to realize that there is absolutely no one-fits-all behavioral manual. I knew that as a teacher, but I know it in my bones as a parent. I know that what works one day won’t work the next. I know that underneath the toddler temper tantrums and “No, Mama!”s, my sweet little chubby cheeked baby is waiting to give me a hug. And therein lies the insanity of parenting.
The point I’m trying to make is that as parents, we all find ourselves saying, “What in the world?!” from time-to-time. If you haven’t been the parent with the crazy kid in the store, or the parent who’s embarrassed at a family function, or a parent who’s had to apologize for their kids’ behavior, then let me assure you, you will be one day.
Those moments are the ones we cringe at, but they’re the moments that help shape not only who are kids are but who we are as parents. My aunt gave me some great advice when I was pregnant with Corey. She said that parenthood is only job in which you try to work yourself out of a job. Basically, our whole job as parents is to get our kids to be self-sufficient, law-abiding, productive, happy members of society. It’s a tough thought to swallow: I’m trying to teach my kids everything they need to know so they don’t need me. One day, they’ll move out. They’ll have jobs. They’ll have spouses. They’ll have kids of their own.
Knowing they will one day be on their own does nothing but terrify me. I want to always be there to guide them, help them, and encourage them. But the reality is that I won’t always be there. I’ve got to use what little time I have with them now to mold them into the best possible version of themselves that they can be. I want them both to remain uniquely who they are, stubborn sass and all. I want them to be happy with who they are. I want them to be confident in their choices. Where’s the resume that says I have any of those qualifications? I can assure you that teaching doesn’t prepare you for those tasks, contradictory to what I used to think.
So the next time God says, “Hold my beer,” I’m gonna hold it. I’m gonna hang onto it for dear life as He shows me what I didn’t know and what I need to learn. I’m going to enjoy the crazy, and I’m going to give grace to myself and other parents when we need it most.