I almost never blog about parenting.
Mostly because I have no idea what I’m doing. Parenting is an experiment. Every time. One in which the test subjects, conditions, and variables are always changing. The moment I think I’ve done something right is usually the moment just before the moment I find out whatever I thought I did right was actually so wrong it will require years of therapy to undo the damage. Why would I document that online?
Funny thing: while people often congratulate me for raising two great young women, they rarely ask me for parenting advice. That ought to tell you something. Sure, their mouths say “Wow, you must have done something right,” but what’s really going through their minds is “How did this woman get so lucky?” And I’m thinking, I know, right?!
Second, I don’t blog about parenting because I like my kids, and more importantly, I want them to like me (or at least still visit me on holidays). Sharing their trials and tribulations with the world on a public blog doesn’t seem like the best way to engender familial affection.
Related: I also think there’s room here for some ethical pondering. Should parents share with hundreds or thousands of strangers about their children’s personal lives when those children aren’t yet able to provide mature, informed consent? Kids are people, too. Who should be shaping their digital footprints? And how much?
Don’t get me wrong. I like watching the most recent Mila videos just as much as the next person. But how will Mila feel about it when she’s 12? 18? 30? She may think it’s great. And I hope she does because I love watching her. But I also can’t deny that if I meet her 20 years from now, I will still see her in pigtails and a sundress sassing about her mom’s Glade candles and that annoying girl Martha.
I’m not saying NO ONE should blog about parenting. I guess maybe someone has to. Otherwise, we’d never know what to do with our kids all summer long or how to make tiny clay houses. We’d also spend a lot more time believing things like I’m the only mom who feeds her kids take-out four times a week and spends 30 minutes a day hiding in the bathroom while texting friends and watching Facebook videos of Mila.
Parenting blogs remind us that we’re not alone, which is probably the single best reason for keeping those blogs (or any blog) alive. And while I am not the person to write a parenting blog, I am most certainly committed to blogging the truth to assure people that they are not alone. Which is what brings me here today.
For some time now, I’ve been biting my tongue about this issue, thinking that by doing so I was protecting young parents, letting them live a little longer in the bliss of ignorance. As for us older parents, I figured we should, together, keep this unspoken vow of silence. I’m actually laughing at myself now. What nonsense! That kind of secret-keeping only breeds deception and isolation and goes against everything I know and believe. Then I realized I could write without sharing personal details about my daughters (all examples below are generic) in the hopes that by the end of today, they will still like me.
THE WEIGHTY TRUTH ABOUT PARENTING
So to all you moms and dads of little ones (we don’t call them littles on my blog because, for unknown reasons, calling them littles makes me want to vomit), here’s something that many of us older parents are reluctant to talk about: parenting doesn’t get easier; if anything, it only gets harder.
I know you think it must get better when they’re out of diapers, or tying their own shoes. And in some ways it does. But in other, weightier ways, it doesn’t.
Sure, your two-year-old is a handful. Imagine that attitude in the body of a middle-schooler.
Yeah, that three-year-old asking you “why?” every other minute wears on your nerves. Imagine the questions they’ll ask after health class or hearing a Cardi B song or when they start to question their faith for the first time.
And managing screen time sure is a pain. Imagine when your kids start using Snapchat and Instagram which serve up soft-porn as if it were nothing more than an ad for Skittles. Everybody’s gonna taste that rainbow.
And that’s the easy stuff. I can deal with attitude. I even enjoy tough conversations and moral dilemmas. And I actually think teenagers are tons of fun. But then….
Think about how you wish your chatty first-grader would give you just five minutes of silence. Then imagine praying for just one honest word because they no longer have any idea how to express the storm that’s brewing inside.
Disciplining little ones is exhausting, for sure. Imagine the moment you realize you no longer have any real control over their behavior – they’re bigger than you, faster than you, smarter than you.
That’s what did me in – realizing just how little there was for me to do. After decades of hands-on, three-meals-a-day, rides-to-school-and-dance, games-and-bedtime-stories, wiping-noses, cuddles-and-prayers parenting, I have found the wave-good-bye, text-and-snap, watch-and-wait parenting to be one of the most difficult things I’ve ever had to endure. And I have incredibly kind, responsible, hard-working, self-motivated, cooperative, loving, compassionate, easy daughters.
PARENTING TEENAGERS & YOUNG ADULTS IS LIKE HANDLING GOOP
Have you ever made Goop with water and cornstarch? Hold it gently and Goop is a liquid dripping easily through your fingers. But put enough pressure on Goop and suddenly it’s an immovable solid. Apparently this is called a dilatant, a material that changes properties in response to external stimuli.
Yes, parenting teenagers and young adults is like handling Goop. You’re always trying to exert just the right amount of parentage to keep them from oozing aimlessly over the earth but not so much that they become hardened, rigid, and immovable.
In short, you almost never feel like you get it right, no matter how hard you try…or don’t try. Now more than ever, I am certain that I don’t know what the hell I’m doing. And it sucks.
SO NOW WHAT?
The good news is that parenting into adulthood is also beautiful and fun and precious and I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world. Although I’m not really one for giving advice, I feel like I ought to at least leave you with some suggestions. Otherwise, why did I even write this blog? So here goes moms and dads:
- Remember you are not alone. Find others who are or have been where you are, with whom you can be completely honest, and encourage one another.
- Accept each season as the precious, temporary gift it is.
- Do not pressure yourself to live every single moment as if it’s the most important moment. First of all, that’s basically impossible. It’s ok to rest, take breaks, relax. An extraordinary life is mostly just a collection of beautifully ordinary days anyway.
- Build good, positive relationships now as the best preparation for the years ahead.
- If all your kids are over the age of 12, get a dog. That way, no matter what, someone at home is always happy to be with you.
- Be realistic, not idealistic, about the future.
- Pray. Sometimes it will be the only thing you can do.
Much love mamas and papas. We’re all in this together.
© Nichole Q. Perreault