In the comments section on my last post, I brought up the issue of the difficulty of parenting. And in visiting Baby Burgh's mom today, I laughed at her sweet daughter throwing things away, remembering when my kids learned to do that. I was so pleased, until they started throwing away the silverware, specifically the spoons along with their discarded yogurt containers (this was before I recycled - not like that would have helped). The kids have all done equally bone headed things over the years, and I, in my scatter brained fashion of parenting, have stood by and observed at times when I should have been stepping in.
Over time I have taken parenting courses (horrible things), read books (always confusing, or too general), listened to the advice of others (occasionally some really good feed back). Now that I have two teenagers, I could really use a power course on parenting. Unfortunately, I think that parenting teens is something that's too specific to each child to have a successful course. I think observation has probably been my most effective learning experience. Watching what NOT to do, as well as what to do. And partnering with my husband is key. He's such a better father than I am a mother. Now. The teens seem to be where he shines as a dad, and for that I'm deeply grateful.
Some of my parenting restraint (you heard me - parenting teens requires great restraint SO MUCH of the time) has been in remembering my own early teen years. I bite my tongue and make allowances when I remember the pain and awkwardness of boy craziness, school, general flightiness (worse as a teen). I stop arguing when it becomes circular. Walk away. I fuss about clean rooms, but allow them to do it themselves, in their own time. The most frustrating room mess-er has taken to cleaning of her own accord WHEN SHE CAN'T STAND IT ANYMORE. I NEVER thought that would happen.
One book which has been extremely helpful has been Dan Allender's, How Children Raise Parents: The Art of Listening to Your Family. The first line of chapter one (Listening to the Voice of Your Children) is this: Aging is inevitable, while becoming mature is uncertain. From there he identifies the two questions that all children ask from the moment they are born, as well as the four types of responses all parents can give. Yes, it's general. But he gives specific examples from his own life. He really just tells the story of life with his own children, the mistakes he made in parenting, the things he did right. He's gut level honest. It's a beautiful thing. I love the book because it makes me feel human, not like some weird parenting freak. His mistakes are huge, and he gives insight to his selfishness in the parenting process - something I acknowledge as a parent. I want things to be just so because I want it, or because it will be a good reflection on me. Do I really care about my kids, who they are as human beings? Especially now that they're TEENAGERS?!? Not always. Mostly. Argh.
So if I had a new year's resolution, it would be to get to know my kids better. To be involved in who and what they are. To love them for who they are right now. And to allow the consequences of their actions to occur because I love them. Because they'll never mature otherwise. Argh. Parenting is hard.
until I write again ...