She calls us Grandpa and Granny Laurie. She is five and very affectionate. She can read. She made me a Thanksgiving card and saved it till we arrived at Christmas. She sings in the bathroom. She acts out whole sections of Brave and incorporates us into the action. Give her any electronic device and she can work it. She can work her parents. She is still on a bottle. She does not dress herself. She wakes her parents to take her to the bathroom at night. She throws eight different kinds of temper tantrums. Daily. She is not picky about what she eats but each meal is an hour long battle. She gets distracted.
Recently, someone came out with a poll of the five most stressful jobs. Parenting wasn’t on it. I had to wonder about their criteria. Parenting – the job you can never resign from, with shifts that never end, no sick leave, no right answers but plenty of wrong ones. Where everyone on the outside of any problem is an expert and free with unsolicited advice – grandparents, relatives, friends, with or without kids, total strangers.
Grandparents love to pass on the benefit of their experience. Grown children, now parents themselves love to correct the mistakes their parents made in their child rearing (just as their parents did in their own child rearing) and make new mistakes of their own. Grandparents love to point out their grown children’s mistakes and tell them why it isn’t working. My children have told me my mistakes which are lesser and different than what I thought they were, which I am dumbfounded by and appreciative of. NOTE: they disagree on what those mistakes are.
I used to tell my husband and children that my shift as Mom ended at 9P.M. They didn’t listen and didn’t believe me. I also said that I was done as a parent when they turned 18. We are at almost 22 and 27 and counting. When they call or just show up with a problem, I still haven’t learned to shut up and just listen. My stepson is 43. My husband suffers from the same failing. We are no different from anyone else, we want to pass on the benefit of our experience and tell our children what they are doing wrong, to prevent them from making mistakes. This is our mistake. We needed to make mistakes, the little things every parent does wrong. It is good modeling to show your children you aren’t perfect, how you handle failure, and frustrated expectations, how you learn from it. Children are resilient, we wouldn’t have 7 billion people in the world today if they were easy to destroy.
I have conviction that Sammie is well-loved, well cared for, that she will not graduate high school drinking from a bottle or if she does, it will not have a nipple attached. I have faith that she already has the seeds of independence (her temper tantrums attest to that) that if she insists on being accompanied as a young woman to the restroom, they will be public restrooms and it will be based on common sense safety issues. And I believe that parenting is a complex task in which each child is born an individual and that it is a relationship in which the child and parents shape each other. It is intimate and except in cases of obvious abuse and/or neglect, those of us outside that relationship do not have the knowledge or right to interfere unless we are invited.