It likely begins of the day we return home from the hospital. The day we sit down on our couch with a newborn and wonder "what do I do now?" It’s up to me to keep this baby safe and teach it strength, independence, and compassion.
How the hell do I do that?
I'll admit that the baby years weren’t my favorite. I definitely dealt with more postpartum issues than I probably let on. Women have had babies for centuries- it’s natural- right? Except there’s nothing natural about trying to comfort a colicky baby when you haven’t slept more than two hours in a row... in four days. With a fourteen month old to care for as well.
Three to five were some of my favorite years: they're slightly precocious, entirely curious, yet still within my realm of being semi comfortable. They were testing new found freedoms, but I still held some control over what we ate, how we spent our time, and if the day was designated for pajamas or adventure... they were relatively eager for either.
Once the kids reached elementary school, though, my comfort zone was definitely challenged. They begin to have a world that didn't involve me, and I hoped that they remembered the lessons I’d tried to instill: to use their voice, assert their independence, be compassionate to others.
For the first time, I really wasn't there to see my kids interact with others, discover new experiences, find their place in a different environment. They were again exploring new freedoms- as was I.
Then I blinked.
I’m now in the depths of the teenage years where every day is something new that challenges my own comfort. I don’t believe the presumption that all teenagers are hormonal, condescending, or screwballs. Looking at teenagers in the news lately, some of them seem more equipped to run the world than others two to three times their age.
And while I truly enjoy my kids company, I struggle nearly daily. As a parent I’ve now had 16 years to instill the importance of using their voice, trusting their insticts, and treating others with kindness.
But sometimes, that's where the challenges begin...
The days when they use their voice to speak strongly about a topic in which I strongly feel the opposite.
The days when they express their independence to consider a college across the state, across the country, or across the world, because it offers the best fit for them.
The days when they offer compassion to someone when my instinct is to go full "mama bear" and protect them.
As much as they're learning to find their way in this world, I am too. I'm learning to listen more- which is really difficult for me. I want to solve, I want to give my opinion, I want to turn everything into a life lesson. Not doing any of those things keeps me teetering just off the comfort zone line.
Yes, parenting is a tough job. And most days I feel like I'm entirely making it up as I go.
So, to my teenagers that I love more than anything in this world, here's my Mother's Day request... be patient with me... even when you think I'm the strictest mom in the world and EVERYONE gets to do/have/go except you... because being a mom is scary.
It's not easy watching your babies- albeit now taller than me- get behind the wheel or into a car with friends.
It's not easy watching hockey players twice your size check you into the boards.
It's not easy knowing that yesterday I held your hands walking to kindergarten, and today our counter is filled with college broshures.
I know I'll likely never entirely fall within my comfort zone... and I'm trying to find comfort in that knowing. Because I'm sure it only gets wider as now I'll watch you take on the entire world with your strength, independence, and compassion.
How the hell am I going to do that?
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