I said it today.
I actually asked my eight-year-old daughter if she would jump off of a bridge if everyone else did.
I succumbed to an over-used metaphor in a time of parenting loss…
…I’d say that I’m officially part of the club?
The Parents Club.
Oh my gosh, parenting. It is ALL of the things.
Back when they were babies, they just needed us to do the basics: love them, change their diapers, feed them, take them to their constant well-baby checkups, not feed them strawberries before a year-old, keep them away from the TV and not lock them in the car when we went into a store…
…now? I’m starting to wish I would have taken a psychology course or two in college.
…and I have a six and eight-year-old.
(The funny thing is, I know that parents of children who are more than 8-years-old are like, “Pshaw… you don’t even know what you’re talking about, Kylee. Just wait. JUST WAIT…)
Oh my gosh, the “Just waits.”
Off topic, but relevant: It’s my opinion that no one should ever say, “…just wait…” to anyone. Ever.
Why would I want to be warned by a seemingly kind person about my impending doom?
“…just wait until she starts teething…”
“…Just wait until the starts walking…”
“…just wait until the homework starts…”
“…just wait until they slam doors, roll their eyes, refuse to wear anything and cry at the drop of the hat.”
Awesome. “Just wait.”
Thanks for the friendly “warning.”
So at this stage of the parenting game, I’m finding that none of the people in my household really know what we’re doing or what our exact roles are.
The elder two of the four humans in our home still sort of think that our babies are still… babies / little kids… but then, the younger two free-loading residents in our home don’t seem to fit the bill of big kids yet, either.
They play with legos and baby dolls.
They color and play.
They’re helpful and sweet.
They’re mean and snarky.
They cuddle and giggle.
They constantly nudge one another.
They are thoughtful and use their manners.
They tattle all of the time.
I can handle six. It’s easy and fun. And, the six-year-old still thinks I’m pretty great. But still man, she’s a handful.
The eight-year-old is different. Our conversations are different. They’re a little deeper, a little more broad and deep. They’re far more intense than what they’ve ever been. That sweet girl is waffling between being a little one and entering the next phase.
It appears that as parenting progresses, the focus is shifting. We’re less focused on covering basic needs and more about handling real-person needs, well-rounded, liberal-arts-degree needs.
I’m learning the importance of asking questions and talking.
I’m learning the importance of listening…
I’m learning the importance of BACKING OFF…
I’m learning the importance of extending a bit of freedom in response to increased responsibility…
I’m learning the importance of consistency and follow up.
I’m learning the delicate dance of being a parent /a guide / a supportive friend / a prison guard.
I’m also being reminded daily of my words.
By nature, I’m “startastic”, as Vivi would say. (Sarcastic.) It appears that sarcasm is not necessarily the most understandable language for 1st – 3rd graders. So, I’m curtailing that and instead trying to be more encouraging and direct.
“Yeah, it really looks like you guys cleaned up this mess.” – SARCASM
“Ladies, the mess remains. Clean it.” – NON-SARCASM. The BETTER choice.
But I don’t want to be one of those parents who say, “Good job! You hung up the shirt that you threw on the floor earlier today! Man! You rock. You did what you SHOULD have done!”
No. That’s your shirt. Pick it up.
I don’t believe that everyone deserves a trophy and I also believe that children who grow up without cleaning up after themselves tend toward “jerk” on the personality spectrum. They’re not fun to work with, live with or be around.
I am on the ladies and I ride them because I want them to be solid, empathetic, spiritually-grounded, kind and good-humored individuals.
But, I want them to be themselves, too.
Molds are not wishy-washy, they’re firm.
When I was little, my Mom did ceramics. We had kilns and slip and tons of molds. We would pour the liquid slip into the molds, secure them with huge, thick rubberbands and we would wait for them to dry.
The molds were were made out of plaster. They were not made out of spongey, soft fleece. The plaster shaped the liquid until it dried. Take the piece out of the mold too soon and you’ve got a soft mess lacking the little details. Wreck.
I do believe in laughing and loving and being kind to my kiddos, but you can bet your bottom dollar I tend toward being a mold, rather than a sponge. I want my kids to stand firmly on their own in the times to come, not lay on my couch as 25-year-old sponges.
I understand that I only get a finite amount of time to do said molding, then it’s all on them to make their own decisions. I want to give it my all.
They deserve my all.
At nighttime when I’m tucking them in, reading with them, praying with them, gazing at their little profiles, I’m overwhelmed.
I’m truly overwhelming with the intense love I have for them. Whoa.
Ironic, since tonight I was all over Vivienne. Meaning, I yelled. She’s always “on”. She’s always trying to make everyone laugh and you know, there’s a time for everything. We can’t be a comedian when we have stuff we need to do. She didn’t do her stuff, I found out, and I yelled. I rarely yell at her, but I did.
And she sobbed.
Like the heaving, you-broke-my-soul sob. And she even yelled back at me a little. (I’ll be honest, I was kind of proud that she was sticking up for herself. She had valid points…)
After the crying, she finally fell asleep with me standing on Lila’s bottom bunk headboard to reach her in the top bunk. One of my hands was on her head, the other sandwiched between her two tiny hands, gently placed against her face.
Molding can be gentle, too. Hard at times, gentle at other times.
Meanwhile, my eight-year-old was reading one of her favorite books, quietly… “Mommy, when you’re done… look at this! So cool…”
Molding means they stand on their own.
I want them to need me.
I want them to know that I adore them.
I want them to know that I think they’re the best things I’ve ever done.
I also want them to know that they have a seat at the table, their voices matters and that I love them just as they are.
I will question them, I will correct them, I will praise them and I will remind them that I expect them to rise above; to be their own people.
I should warn them now that they’ll probably hear this one from me a few more times…
“If your friend jumped off a bridge, would you?”
I mean, if it ain’t broken…