1. Parenting is Acting. Perhaps this component of parenting will change as the kids get older, but in these early years, I find myself donning a much more enthusiastic version of myself than is natural for me.
“Christmas lights, Mama!”
“Yes, there are the green lights, Maddie.”
“CHRISTMAS LIGHTS, MAMA! GREEN!” Apparently, my initial response was not adequately animated, never mind that this news has been delivered every day since those lights went up.
“Yes! I see the green Christmas lights! Wow! Very pretty!”
Satisfied now, she concludes: “Green. Wow.”
Then there are the days that I wish I could act more convincingly. Those days that I am tired, frustrated, grumpy from having to listen to whining and squabbling all day, only to then have them snap into the best mood ever and wonder why I’m not doing the same.
Maybe in later years, the acting will be more like controlling my irritation at a teen’s insolence, or controlling an overreaction to something. Either way, I think those skills I learned in that fun little acting class in college will have to be revived.
2. Parenting is Heart-breaking. I often look at my children, so innocent and loving and so able to live in the moment (they know no other way), and wish I could protect the happiness and simplicity of their lives. Instead, I know that my heart will break a hundred times as I watch them grow, because I won’t be able to protect them from everything. (Unless we move to a remote corner of Montana, cut off access to TV, internet, and other people. Maybe I need to give this option more thought…) They will lose that innocence. They will be hurt by others. They will encounter hard situations. They will be challenged and doubt their abilities. It’s only as a parent that I’ve learned how hard it is to watch someone you love so fiercely experience hurt or disappointment.
Still, I will be able to protect them from many things. And I think E’s and my role as parents is to steer them away from wrong, and, as they get older, teach them how to endure life, and do so with grace. More accurately, it is our role as parents to teach them reliance on God, and to model it. But that is a post for another day.
3. Parenting delivers a brutally honest look at yourself. No other job, degree, or endeavor has pushed my limits so far and so constantly. And in so doing, parenting has made me see, with brutal clarity, my own shortcomings, tendencies (good and bad), and how they affect my choices and reactions. It is a humbling lesson. The other thing I would say to parents is: watch yourself. I’ve often been surprised by some facial expression that my 5 year old will make, or something she will say, only to realize that she is mimicking…me. Talk about a wake-up call!
4. Parenting Changes Everything.
Where you used to drive by a playground with barely any recognition that it was there, now you make a note to add it to the list of possible kid activities within walking distance. And if the kids are in the car, you try to draw there attention away from it. No time to stop now.
Where you used to see a room’s decor, you now survey what is breakable, what objects are within reach, whether a surface is stain proof or not.
Where you used to plan the weekend around what you wanted and needed to do, now you plan it around what will keep the kids occupied and happy, and, therefore, you sane. Errands and cleaning will have to be squeezed in some other time and way.
5. Parenting is the Biggest Adventure you can embark on. Nothing else seeps into every corner and moment of your heart and time the way being a parent does. It demands the best of you, brings you to your knees, fills you with joy and pride, fury and shame, worry and love. I’m still early in my journey, but I anticipate the coming years knowing that I would have my life no other way.