Happy Mother’s Day!
Happy Mother’s Day!
“Making the decision to have a child – it is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body. ”
― Elizabeth Stone
I love this quote. I would have appreciated it as poetic at any time in my life, but now, as a mother of two teenage daughters, I connect with it on a profound and visceral level. I may be feeling particularly sentimental because one of my daughters is gone this week on a school trip to a different state, taking her out of my daily life for the first time in 13 years. I guess this is a little preview of what life will be after she leaves for college, and I can summarize my feelings in a single word: BLEH! I hate it. I had children to raise them and be with them, not to say good-bye to them. And yet, the bittersweet truth is that our purpose as mothers is to raise children who don’t need us; children who can function independently from us. From the moment the cord is cut, our job is to help them gain autonomy and self-sufficiency. I’ve done my job pretty well so far. Both of my girls are pretty good at thinking for themselves, making reasoned decisions, and doing laundry. Neither would starve in a kitchen full of food. They have a pretty good sense of right and wrong. And each has her own tremendously good sense of humor (surprisingly dissimilar from each other’s, by the way). Yes, I love my girls and by the grace of God, they seem to love me, too.
But let’s get real about the challenges of parenting! Parenting is hard work, physically demanding, and seemingly endless at times. I can’t remember when I first heard it said, “Parenting is long days and short years.” It’s a great summary of this time in life. Long days are filled with the rigors of the job. When they’re young, it’s wiping little noses and bottoms, keeping them safe and well fed. As they get older, it becomes monitoring homework, policing chores, supervising basic hygiene, sleuthing phone and computer usage. Nights are either too long because you’re up worrying or comforting a sick kid, or too short because you crash so hard it seems your alarm sounds only seconds after your head hits the pillow!
Equally taxing is the emotional toll of parenting. It’s feeling the ups and downs of another human being as though they existed in your own skin. It’s that stinging hot rush of rage you feel when you see your kid get hurt by someone else’s unkindness. It’s your own inner child re-living the pain of peer rejection or falling short of an important goal. It’s knowing that every pain and sting and sorrow helps them to develop inner resources and coping strategies and knowing that only by allowing them to experience painful consequences will they learn what they need to learn in order to become fully-functioning and emotionally balanced adults. We want to spare them the pains but we cannot, and we should not. It often takes more strength to do nothing and let the lessons be learned…
The question every mom I know asks at one point or another is this: Am I doing it right? Many of us are wrapped up in careers, volunteerism, and the general chaos of modern life, and we wonder if we let all of that distract us from the main thing and fearful that we are missing out on the moments that make up this singular time in our lives.
Why is it that grandparents often seem so much more relaxed with kids than parents? Maybe it’s because they have wisdom that can only come from experience. They know how fast childhood goes. They have learned the difference between what seems so important versus what actually is so important. All the money in the world won’t buy back years lost because you were looking ahead and not paying attention to the here-and-now. Ultimately, towels on the floor, mud on the carpet, and unmade beds don’t ruin a person’s character, but a mom who rages about such things certainly can have a detrimental and life-long effect.
Most parents who have successfully launched children wish they had taken more time to play and sing and dance with their kids when they had the chance. “Big ticket items” in childhood — winning a trophy, learning to jump off the high dive, and even earning a scholarship… these achievements are important and memorable, but how your child got to the accomplishment matters, too. Was it a battle to get the kid to practice on time? Were you screaming and yelling about the importance of work ethic and keeping commitments? If your kid reaches success but hates you in the process, was it worth it? When does supporting become pushing? And when does pushing become shoving, for that matter? Are you carving out enough time to just be with and enjoy your kids during these fleeting years? …After school conversations about the ups and downs of the day, brushing hair, playing board games… this is the good stuff. Find opportunities to join your kid’s world, even if just for a few minutes. Those minutes will add up to a lifelong connection that will stay strong long after they leave your house.
Parenting classes & support groups are coming soon to North Shore Counseling! Let us know if you want to join us! Call 847-205-0371.