If you came here looking for parenting tips, this is not the place. I do everything I can to be the best parent I can be every day, but is any of it right? Who knows?
I try to make sure my kids know that I love them, regardless of what is going on around us or with them. That, I am sure, is right. I want to make them feel safe and that they can tell me anything. That, I am sure, is right. I am picky about what they eat so they will be physically healthy. That, I am sure, is right. Those are just the basics though, there are so many more choices we make as parents that we really have no idea if they are right or not.
I don’t offer advice easily when it comes to kids, and when I do, it comes with a disclaimer. What seems to have worked for my kids may not work for your kid. I say seems to have worked because, well, they are still kids and I won’t really know if anything I am doing has really worked until they grow up and thrive, or God forbid, don’t thrive. It’s kind of like giving people a recipe and telling them it’s great when you’ve only just began mixing the ingredients for the first time. You don’t know. You think that the things you’re doing will turn into something wonderful, but what if it doesn’t?
On a side note, when I say something wonderful, I mean happy with their own life as adults. That is my goal. Not societally acceptable adults with “good jobs” and a picture perfect family, but children who have grown into adulthood that know what makes them happy and what doesn’t. Functioning adults that know it’s okay to be sad, angry, and even defeated, but that those feelings are only for a season. Feel them, deeply, learn from them, and then turn the page.
Something any parent knows is not to listen to people’s advice who don’t even have children, and for some reason, people without children tend to have more opinions about how to raise them than people with children. There is one exception to that rule, in my opinion, which is children themselves. Children can provide so much insight if you just listen, really listen, to what they have to say. Before they feel the pressure that eventually weighs heavy on most adults and while they still see more good in the world than bad, listen to them. That is the one piece of advice that I find to be universal with kids, just listen.
Those of you who know me well, know that I am relatively strict with my kids and there are consequences to their actions. Even my kids know that those consequences will not be given to make them miserable. One time, my mom was staying with the kids during school (virtual learning, so they were home) and Grayson wasn’t doing what he was supposed to be doing. He had mentioned earlier that he was going to ride is bike at the end of the day, so my mom told him if he didn’t get his work done, that I might ground him from his bike. He said, “she would never ground me from something outside.” He was totally right though, I will take devices away in the blink of an eye, but I cannot take away outside anything. We’ve had to postpone going outside in order to complete some things, but I have never grounded them from any outdoor activity and I don’t see that changing. I have made them clean baseboards, toilets, and they’ve been 100% device-free for a week, but I have never told them they cannot play outside.
Do I know if that will help them in the long run? Nope. I hope it will. I hope they can look back and see that their harshest punishments came when they were mean to someone else or when they lied to me. I value honesty and kindness over a lot of other things. Broken things can be replaced, but if you hurt a person, physically or emotionally, that damage is done and cannot be undone. I hope they can look back and see that even when they were in trouble, I still loved them and would continue to no matter what.
If you are a single parent, I give you full respect because that’s got to be incredibly difficult, but I can only speak on my experience. Being part of a team with my husband is challenging. I love him, dearly, but there are times we do not agree on what is best for our kids. Anyone who says they are their partner agree on how to parent all the time is lying. LYING. Being consistent is one of the hardest things to do as a parent and trying to do so with another person is even harder. Mark and I agree on most things, particularly when we are just sitting around talking about them, but often, in the middle of a situation, we react differently. Sometimes those reactions are polar opposites and we find ourselves upset with each other instead of properly dealing with a situation. Who is right? We don’t actually know, but we think we know in that moment.
So if I have a hard time always agreeing with the one person that I chose to love beyond reason, how do so many people offer advice to strangers like it’s set in stone? I can’t. I know my kids and I know the way the respond to certain things and how to help them best, but I also know not all kids are the same. I parent my two kids differently. They are different kids with completely different personalities so they have different needs and that’s okay.
The advice I will give freely is this; don’t compare yourself or your kids to anyone else, love them, and forgive both yourself and your children when missteps arise.