Last weekend as I was lying in a hotel bed next to my 13-year old daughter, watching her sleep, my thoughts drifted back to a time not so long ago when she was little. I have always loved watching my children sleep. Every night when I would go in to check on them before heading off to bed, I couldn’t help but pause for a moment and stare at their angelic, innocent faces. When we first become parents, and our children are young, we think we will never make it through those tough times. Parenting is hard. Figuring out HOW to parent is hard. Sleepless nights, feeling tired all the time. Going through developmental stages that test every ounce of your sanity and being. Figuring out when to shelter your children, when to be open and honest with them. Keeping them safe and out of harms way. And then I jumped back to reality and the events of the past week. Events that tested me, my children, and someone they love dearly. Events that forced me to have one of the most difficult conversations I have had to have with my two oldest children to date, aside from telling them that their Dad and I were getting divorced. Events that tested me, and sent me through an array of emotions in a short period of time. Fear. Concern. Scared. Anger. Sadness. Disappointment. Heartache. And then did the same for my two oldest children. It brought back memories of another time in my life when I went through the same range of emotions, but for different reasons. A time when my now 13-year old daughter had just been born. One of the craziest, scariest, saddest moments of my life. All when I was trying to care for a 2 1/2-year old and an infant. I have been tested in many big ways over the course of her 13-year life. But I look at her, her strength, her passion, her drive. And you would never know it. Somehow I have managed to raise an unbelievable daughter. A caring, loving, giving, selfless, passionate, driven young woman. Every day this girl amazes me and makes me desire to strive to be better for her and the rest of my family. And yet she doesn’t even know it. I have managed to raise three amazing children. None of them have any idea the impact they have had on my life. I would lay down my life for any one of them at any moment, without hesitation. They are all amazing little humans.
But this moment that directly affected my DAUGHTER, that could have had a much different and fatal ending for HER, made me realize that parenting doesn’t get easier. It just changes. One of our main jobs as a parent is to keep our children safe and out of harms way. This moment made me realize that it is actually harder to do this the older they get. The things we have to keep them safe from as they grow are bigger, scarier, and much more out of our control.
At this stage of life I have a 16-year old that is in high school and surrounded by people and things that I have no control over, driving on his own, having his first serious girlfriend, beginning to make huge decisions that will directly impact the direction his adult life takes. This is all new for me and I am struggling to feel like I am being the best parent that I can be. And make the best choices that I can, with him.
I have a 13-year old that is maturing, changing, becoming very social, and trying to discover who she is all while dealing with outside influences of friends who are allowed to do things she isn’t, and social media that only exacerbates those things. But I continue to stand firm on the things that we think are important, regardless of what other parents choose for their children.
And then I have a 5-year old who is hurricane of mess making, defiance, love, sweetness, and silliness all rolled into one little package. It is only beginning with him, and I fear the direction the world will take as he approaches the stages my older two are in.
Would I change any of it? No. But figuring out how to parent in these drastically changing times is hard. We as parents are dealing with issues with our children that we never have had to deal with in our past. We are muddling through it mentally and emotionally ourselves, all while trying to figure out how to deal with it as a parent. Technology. Drugs. Bullying. Politics as they have never been. Mass shootings. How are we to parent through these things if we as adults haven’t even figured out how to handle them? And then something far too close to home hits and directly affects your children. Trying to talk to your children about poor decisions that someone very close to them made, that caused a domino of other consequences that impacted them, and could have been fatal. Trying to find the words to comfort your children and at the same time use it as a very teachable moment. To help them to see that even adults make very poor decisions at times, but that our decisions can have some major consequences on our life, the lives of those we care about, and our future. Trying to help them deal with the uncertainty, pain, sadness, and all of the other emotions that surround the event.
Folks, sometimes parenting sucks. Trying to figure it all out isn’t easy. But we have one chance in this life to shape the minds and future of our children. My husband always says “To do too much for our children is to do too little.” He is absolutely, 100% correct. And I know that I am guilty of this. The problem is trying to figure out what is too much. What is too little. And WHAT to do. There is no playbook, especially in these changing times. It’s all guessing, and trial and error. We all want to raise amazing little humans that go on to be amazing adults. It’s the path to get there that is the biggest struggle. The time is NOW to show our children the way, to teach them discernment, to guide them to be amazing adults. Never think for a moment that tragedy won’t affect your family. Never think for a moment that you can’t be strong. Never think for a moment that it’s too late to help your children be stronger. I love this quote from A. A. Milne.
This is what we need to teach our children. Be brave, be strong, be smart. They can be, and are, all of these things. It’s not easy for children to deal with adult emotions and events, but they are capable. They are braver, stronger, and smarter than we give them credit for. We CAN raise amazing little humans together.