“The best preparation for tomorrow is doing your best today”- H. Jackson Brown, JR
In our home we have a dinner time ritual. We go around the table and share what we had for lunch, who we kissed, one thing we learned and one thing we’re grateful for.
I began this ritual when my daughter was in elementary school and my son was a toddler. We still do it to this day. It’s been my manipulative tactic over the years to stay in the loop of what’s going on in their lives.
I have twenty two years of parenting experience under my belt. I’ve survived 8,126 days of parenthood. I’ve enjoyed the good days and conquered the bad. I’ve won and lost battles, chose each one wisely and at times they chose me. Parents have a innate ability to know when their children are plotting against them.
I had set a bedtime curfew in the house for 10:00 PM. One night when my daughter was thirteen she refused. “You should be happy I’m here. I could be out getting drunk and pregnant,” she said.
“So could I,” I responded.
She stirred the pot and crossed every line I drew but has shown how deeply she cares for me through her unique form of expression.
I was a single parent until I married for the first time when my daughter was nineteen and my son was fourteen.
Although my daughter often pushed me with the same stubborn, opinionated and fiery personality traits I passed down to her, my son had been the real challenge.
I did the best I could. The first time I took him underwear shopping I stopped a random dude and asked him to explain men’s boxer sizes. When he was twelve he asked me how to shave his face. I stood in the bathroom and shaved mine too. I remember his first heartbreak. As a woman I attempted to heal his sorrow the only way I knew how- Ben& Jerry’s ice cream and binge watching chick flicks.
They were so angry with me the day I discovered the Xbox One voice recognition and was able to shut it down from my bedroom across the hall.
At one point we had a suggestion box and on Sundays we would sit down together and vote on each one. They wanted to turn the stairway from the loft down to the living room into a water slide. I wasn’t opposed to the idea. It just wasn’t feasible. They still hold it against me at times.
When my daughter graduated high school she gave me a congratulations card. “We did it,” she wrote. We certainly had.
As they grew older their struggles grew more intense. My daughter battled addiction while my son battled social anxiety and a panic disorder, and I battled becoming a nervous wreck.
I’ve navigated safe passage through puberty, hormones and angst, teenage heartbreak and rebellion. I’ve managed not to yell for 8,126 days.
I’ve often been told I’ve handled things with grace. I don’t know how I’ve managed to handle them. I just have.
There’s something rough and tough about parenting. I’ve questioned every decision I’ve made and based every one of them on what would allow me to sleep at night. Even in those moments I thought, dear lord I can’t do this, I still did it. All though there’s been moments when they were resistant, the goal is that each lesson will guide them later in life.
My son is now in his senior year of high school and I’m forced to face the reality that the years have gone by and my responsibility as a full time parent are coming to a close. I’m both enthralled and petrified.
A good parent raises their children with honor and pride. They build a strong foundation for them to learn the skills required to go off into the world on their own and sustain, work hard, chase their dreams and thrive from their passions.
This is how I’ve raised my children but if the outcome were only that easy.
A part of me feels selfish. What will I have once they leave me? Who will I be? What will I do? All those moments of fear while raising them and fantasizing of a life once their grown and gone feel insignificant now. We parents lose a portion or our own identity while raising our children. It’s impossible not to.
We change over the years as they change. We adapt with them learning about themselves as we learn about ourselves, too. They’re not the same person they were on the first day of kindergarten, neither are we. The reality is we’ve grown up together. I have grown up just as much as they have. I’m not that 23 year old girl anymore. It’s not only about parenting. I now have double the amount of life experience under my belt as well.
And, let’s be honest. As parents we wing it. My daughter once told me she hopes to develop the same ability to handle things with grace as I do. Admittedly, I’m charmed by her view of me. Morally I feel wrong allowing her to believe that. 8,126 days later I’m still not convinced I know what I’m doing.
The other day my son told me he’s worried that he doesn’t know what he’s going to do with the rest of his life once he’s left the nest. The irony is that I don’t know what I’m going to do with my life either. I think that’s okay though. We’ll figure it out. We always have.
Even though my children and I are approaching a point where it’s time to define ourselves as individuals it’s doesn’t change the fact that we are family. It may not be under the same roof but we’ll take that journey together, and let’s be real. No parent wants their children living with them forever regardless of how much they are loved and cherished.
The same as they need to find the strength, willingness and ambition to transition into adulthood and a life of their own, I too need to find the strength, willingness and ambition to let them go. Right now that feels more of a challenge than twenty two years of parenting ever did.