Originally, the title was "Parenting: It's Not For Pussies".
Yeah, yeah, yeah....I know my title is offensive.
It's also true.
I laugh and laugh and laugh these days when a friend of mine is overwhelmed with potty training, or they're tired because the baby isn't sleeping, or they are struggling to move from two naps to one.
I remember those days. I do. They suck, for sure, especially when you're so tired that you barely make it through each day living on coffee.
I also remember thinking to myself, it'll just be easier after _______ happens, filling in the blank with whatever crappy stage or transition I was contending with at the time.
I know now how wrong I was.
Parenting doesn't get easier.
Sure, the hands on physical involvement part does get easier. Maybe. It's not like you're still wiping an eight year old's butt three times a day or anything. For all the stuff that you get to stop doing, though, there tends to be something else that comes along and takes that place. The emergency runs to school because someone forgot their trumpet. The I need a posterboard for a project today requests. The hey mom, by the way, I signed you up to make tacos for my entire class tomorrow admissions at 10pm the night before.
In addition to all that stuff, you have to deal with other things you never had to when they were little and tiny, when they were confined to playpens and car seats, when you knew exactly where they were at all times and with whom.
Back then they needed you to do everything for them, but you didn't have to worry about friends or bullies or test scores or playdates or sports teams.
You didn't have to deal with parents who parent completely differently than you do or the children they raise or the inevitable conflicts between the two.
You didn't have to deal with helping kids navigate relationships with teachers or coaches.
You didn't have to deal with a child who cries for thirty minutes before soccer practice, convinces you that you are ruining her life, only to have her floating in the clouds an hour later because she now loves soccer again.
You didn't have to deal with mean girls, drama queens and habitual intimidators.
You didn't have to deal with giving them tiny pieces of independence, never knowing if they'll be responsible enough with it to keep it.
You didn't have to deal with broken hearts.
You didn't have to deal with social anxiety, with fear, with depression.
You didn't have to deal with kids who'd been kicked out of their social circles for reasons they can't even understand.
You didn't have to deal with trying to guess which school was going to be the best fit for them.
You didn't have to deal with puberty.
You didn't have to deal with trusting your kids to go out into the world and be the good people you've taught them to be, knowing that you actually have no control over whether they live up to that most of the time.
Last weekend, on Mother's Day no less, I checked my son's grades. 3 D's, all because he had missing assignments.
His mother was not pleased.
This happened a few semesters ago, but only in one class. I didn't call the teacher, I didn't email the teacher. I didn't write him reminder notes. I didn't.
I told him that it was his responsibility to get whatever was missing turned in, and that he had to get it in before grades were final. I told him that there would be consequences if he didn't, and that I was not fixing this for him. He did it, pulled all his grades back up.
At conferences, one of his teachers asked me what had happened. I told her that I forced him to take care of it alone, without my help.
She thanked me, then asked when I was going to teach a class on middle school parenting.
At the beginning of the year, we made a list for him, in order of priority for the activities he wanted to participate in. School first, then trumpet practice, then extra curricular sports he signed up for, then scouts, then guitar, then everything else in the known world.
If he wanted to do the things at the end of the list, he had to do everything before it first. Most of the time, he has. But not always.
He slacked again. I caught him again. His grades are back up now, save the one that the teacher hasn't entered the grades into the system yet.
He worked his ass off this week to do it. He didn't get to do much of the fun stuff he normally would have. There were some tears when I told him that I wasn't discussing his birthday party until after his grades were final. He knows I'll cancel it. He knows he will get that guitar taken away. He knows that he'll lose the video games. He knows I'm not kidding.
He'll be a responsible adult someday if it kills me, but not because I made things easy for him...because I force him to deal with the consequences if he doesn't do what he's supposed to.
Consistency blows. Following through hurts. Forcing them to learn these lessons is hard.
Then again, no one ever said parenting was easy.
I've stopped believing that it's ever going to get easier.
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