Back in my pre kid (PK) days, I knew a lot about parenting. I dreamed of parenting, I studied parenting, I read endless parenting books. By the time my first child arrived, I was certain I’d be close to the perfect parent. I maintained this certainty right up until our daughter was about 6 months old and still waking up a couple of times a night. The books said she should be sleeping through the night; my friends’ babies were sleeping through the night. My kid was definitely not sleeping through the night, and neither was I. It’s been mostly downhill from there.
The more I parent, the less I know. This seems to be the unanimous feeling amongst my kids. One afternoon last week my eldest child found out that we had taken her younger sister, L, age 15, to see The King’s Speech.
Eldest: What?!?!?! I can’t’ believe you, of all people, took an underage child to see an R rated movie. I thought you were a big believer in protecting our innocent eyes and ears from polluting influences? What is happening to you? You’re not the mother who raised me.
Me: Now honey, it was only rated R because of language. Besides, your grandmother saw it first, and she said it was perfectly OK for a 15 year old. I told your sister to not repeat the bad words, so figured we were good to go.
Eldest: Told her not to repeat the bad words?!? Really? That would never have cut it with me. You wouldn’t even let me watch a rerun of Seinfeld when I was in middle school. You said it should be R rated. Seinfeld?? R rated?!?!
Me: Hey, be fair. It was the “Is he sponge worthy?” episode.
Younger Sister L: (with what distinctly looked like a smirk on her face): Yeah, I don’t even have a bedtime any more.
Me: Yes, you do. You just don’t obey it very often.
Eldest: What? And you let her get away with that.
Me: L, go to bed right now!! I mean it. See, I haven’t lost my touch.
Eldest: Honestly mom, your standards are slipping.
She’s right. My standards are slipping, right along with my certainty. Back in the day, I probably wouldn’t have made an exception to our family’s “No R Rated Movies Until You’re 17” rule. I would have worried that opening this door just a crack would lead to an all-out frontal attack. Now, I’m not so sure.
When I finished my book (The Complete Book of International Adoption) my agent and the publisher wanted me to write an adoptive parenting book. I thought that was a terrible idea. At the time, my kids ranged in age from 9 to 19. How could I possibly write a book when I wasn’t finished with the job and didn’t know all the answers? Now, I think I probably should have written it when they were much younger when I still knew a few things.
At this point in my parenting journey, the list of things I know for sure has dwindled to just a few. At the rate I’m slipping, the list will be gone all together pretty soon, so I’d better share them with you now.
What I Know For Certain About Parenting
- The worst will probably not happen, and if it does, it’s probably not as bad as you fear. (He will probably be potty trained by kindergarten, and if not, there is a solution and you’ll find it. She will probably learn to read well enough to get by in life, and if not, she’ll learn to compensate.)
- Most siblings will eventually get along, and if not, when grown at least they won’t still be living in your house.
- The teen years are not as bad as you hear. The foundation you’ve built the first 12 years will support you through the next 7 years.
- Spend time each week having fun with your children–not teaching them, not taking care of them, simply enjoying them and yourself.
- Often the best thing a parent can do is get out of the way and let life teach the lesson and trust in your children to learn.
Oh, and as a parent, you absolutely must do something small that gives you pleasure every day.
What about parenting do you know for sure?
Originally published in 2011: Updated in 2017 Image credit: brennaval