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Friday, May 16, 2014

Parenting Is Born of Unsteady Moments

I have a secret.  I don't know all of the answers.  When you become a parent you find yourself digging deeper into the job through a series of unsteady moments.  Whether your choices are right or whether they're wrong is always up for debate.  The results may not reveal themselves for 20 years.  It is a life long investment, just ask my parents.

When your child is placed in your arms, it is pure joy.  They are innocent and pure. Nothing of the world has touched them yet.  While they are wailing and screaming, they really haven't felt disappointment or sadness.  They are a blank canvas on which parents get to paint a desired masterpiece.  Our main character in our masterpiece is happiness for our kids.  My goal is to make them better than I am.  I want them happier, stronger, more successful, kinder, and more confident.

Then comes your first unsteady moment.  Sure you've read the books, but nowhere in those pages is there instruction on how to clean up a poop explosion that has reached places that are unfathomable.  The author surely never wrote about your kid getting his hands stuck in the vacuum cleaner.  In no chapter was there a diagram showing you exactly how to hold your girl when she's broken a bone.  It wasn't likely considered that a kid would call a girl sexy as a 6 year old, not knowing what the word meant.  Obviously these are all true stories.  In my opinion these are the unsteady moments that give birth to good parents.

The unsteady is what makes it great.  To me it's like putting together the infinite puzzle.  New pieces pop up and the spaces for them are only found within yourself.  Challenging you is kids' job.  Human beings are not robots.  Each of us has made mistakes.  So when do we reveal the "messy" self to our kids?

Kids typically follow examples better than they follow instructions.  The old adage, "do as I say not as I do" no longer exists.  My kids have seen me make mistakes.  My kids have heard me drop the f-bomb on what is likely too many occasions.  They've seen me have one too many cocktails; which is one of my greatest regrets.  I've apologized to my kids for my mistakes and discussed them in depth.  So my question now that they are older and hyper aware of my every move is; do I have to be a golden child?  Should I completely quit drinking altogether?  Should my language clean up into a sweet, cookie cutting Mom speech?  Do I put every effort into showing more ambition, so that my daughter can see that she can be whatever she wants to be when she grows up?  We are in another unsteady moment.

Our son just graduated from D.A.R.E.  This program is a great one, as it helps them develop skills to avoid peer pressure and abstain from violence, all while giving them information about drugs and the health detriments they present.  My son definitely paid attention and he still is.  So here in lies the unsteady.  Should he see me drink responsibly?  Or should he not see me drink at all? 

I shouldn't be drinking anyway.  My doctor told me that 4 drinks in a week is too much.  On my "super-fun" nights, I can down more than 4 in a few hours.  Please don't judge as I am not Laura Ingalls.  From time to time I cut loose and have a good time dancing and laughing with my girls.  I don't do it every week or even every month for that matter.  Is this once in awhile too much for a mother?  Unsteady moment continues.

Having an occasional glass of wine or an occasional beer with friends shouldn't be cause for concern, but in the eyes of a newly graduated D.A.R.E. kid maybe it is.  So in an effort to continue as a good example, I'm going to discuss this topic with my boy.  He needs honesty.  He needs to see me as a human being who has made mistakes.  He also needs to see me caring about what he sees and how it affects him.  I hope it isn't wrong to secretly hope that he doesn't mind seeing me have a cocktail once in awhile.  Let's face it folks, it's fun!

I suppose that there are no perfect answers, just as there are no perfect parents.  In my unsteady moments, I will find my footing from the place where all of my decisions come from.  Half of it is my heart and half of it is my head.  Hopefully honesty will help these small people see the world for what it is and I won't mess them up too badly.

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