At many grad parties, it's common for people to put together collages or videos of pictures featuring their child throughout the years. As I sat on the living room floor one night, getting the collages ready for my daughter's party, I found myself reminiscing about those chaotic, crazy times when the kids were younger, the days were never-ending, and my knees didn't make those gross crunchy sounds when I walked up stairs.
There is a never-ending barrage of experts telling us what we, as parents, are doing wrong. Lists of all the ways we're ruining their psyches, their immune systems, their futures. All of these so-called "experts" are so quick, and eager, to point out our shortcomings as parents. I call bullshit on this current trend of parent-shaming.
We need to brag a little bit. No, not the annoying hipster parent humblebrag crap: "This. Barnee taught himself Mandarin over the weekend! Potty training should be a breeze!" (complete with an Instagram shot of the diaper-clad linguist conversing with a panda. Valencia filter.) Sometimes the best things we do as parents are the things we do without intent, the things we say and do and model for them on a daily basis. We need to look for these things, and pat ourselves on the back for doing them.
As I looked over 18 year's worth of pictures, I decided to do a little MomBragging of my own.
THINGS I'M SO GLAD I DID:
1. On countless spring and summer days, I picked my kids up by the arms (and sometimes by an arm and a leg) and swung their impossibly light, tiny bodies around and around out on the front lawn. We'd twirl around until we were too dizzy to continue, and we'd fall together, into a heap on the soft, cool grass. I remember looking down at their wee faces as we spun around, and the sweet symphony of their voices crying out "One more time, mommy!". Oh man. If only I could pick up one of these 6 footers now...
2. Took them to see a midnight premiere of a loud, action-filled movie of questionable appropriateness. More than once. I will never forget how excited they were to break all the rules and stay up way too late and eat popcorn in a theater in the middle of the night. And neither will they.
3. Let them fail. Let them lose. Let them experience the natural consequences that their actions and choices cause. Now, I'm not saying I kept a bonfire burning in the living room or stored silverware next to the outlets. But they have learned some valuable life lessons: if you don't do your homework, your grades suffer. If you decide to skip a practice, your coach might not let you play in the next game. If you lie, the truth will probably come out at some point down the road. You want to spend that whole paycheck? Okay. But don't come to me when your friends want to go see a movie and all you have is some pocket lint and that awesome Playstation game that you just had to have.
Not all consequences are bad, though. They know that working their butts off for a good grade results in...you guessed it! A good grade. That lending a hand to someone in need not only feels good, but chances are that person will be the first in line to help you when you need it. Choosing to say no to that beer or that joint at the party means your parents get the good kind of call from a cop in the middle of the night.
4. Lost my shit in front of them. And I mean, really lost my shit. They've seen me crying, seen me mad, seen me grieve. More importantly, they've seen me get over the crying, the anger and the grief. I've let them know when I'm feeling blue, and that sometimes it's just a blue kind of day. I've also shared my joys with them, and let them see me squeee with excitement when something good happens to one of us. I want my kids to know that emotions are like a roller coaster: they go up and down, they can be exciting and terrifying. And we all experience them.
5. Learned how to manage money, and as I did...they did as well. I went through a divorce that was financially devastating. After being a stay-at-home mom for a dozen years, I found myself without an income and without many opportunities to earn one. Going through bankruptcy and foreclosure meant I had to start from scratch. It's been a struggle but also one hell of an education; when you're broke you figure out pretty quickly the difference between Wants and Needs. As soon as my kids started earning money, whether it was from babysitting, helping grandpa with his rental properties or their first jobs, we marched into the bank and opened accounts. My two oldest are paying for a big chunk of their college educations with their own money...and the other two are on track to do the same. Proud mom here.
6. Hugged trees, saved baby squirrels, helped turtles cross roads and recycled like a mofo. My friends give me all sorts of crap for being the bleeding-heart nature freak I am, and I guess it's kind of deserved. But my kids have known right from the get-go that we share this planet with all sorts of other living creatures and it's our duty to treat them with respect. You may think our catch-and-release policy for bugs in the house is cuckoo, but like I say to my doubters...if we get to heaven and find out spiders are in charge I won't look so crazy, will I?
|Rocky and Bullwinkle on their way to the Squirrel Rehab lady.|
7. Pushed, and I mean REALLY pushed saying "Please" and "Thank You". You can say what you want about my children, but they are unfailingly polite. Ever been out with someone who is an a-hole to servers or cashiers? It's embarrassing, and it's rude. I'm happy that my kids won't be that a-hole.
8. Taught them the value of a heartfelt apology. And also, that an apology isn't a guarantee of absolution. Some hurts are so big that it may take days, months, even years to recover. Some hurts are irreversible. But by saying "I'm sorry", and really meaning it, you let the other person know where you stand.
9. Laughed with them. Often. One morning my daughter missed the bus because she couldn't find her glasses. I ended up having to drive her, which meant I had to skip my shower or be late for work. I was seething a little as we set out for school, and she was still bitchy after her "can't find my glasses" meltdown. The car ride could have been an icy one, but I decided to warm it up. I told her about the time I was on a date with the guy we now call Mullet Man. Mullet Man and I were in his car, on our way to a restaurant. The windows were down, and we were chatting away when, out of nowhere, a plastic bag blew into the car and wrapped itself around his face. Luckily, he removed it quickly and we weren't in danger, but OMG. The laughs. As I told my crabby girl this story, her face softened and as she got out of the car we were both giggling. Laughs win.
10. Tell them how much I love them. As often as possible. When things are going good, it's nice to hear. When things are going bad, it's essential. Phone calls are usually closed with an "I love you." When someone leaves the house they are accompanied by an "I love you!" and much to their chagrin, usually a "Make good choices!" too. Always say I love you.
How about you? I bet you can rattle off plenty MomBrags of your own. Go ahead, take a few moments and think about the good things you've done as a parent. The things you don't need an expert to tell you whether it was wrong or right.
You deserve a pat on the back, my friend. We all do.