Parenting is not for the weak hearted. I remember when the boys were little and I was sleep deprived and overwhelmed raising these three little boys. I would listen to parents who were raising teenagers talk about how tough it was at that stage. All I could think was “you obviously don’t remember what it was like to be where I am, because your life looks like a cake walk right now.”
My little sister has 4 children: a 5 year old son, 3 year old daughter, 2 year old son, and 6 month old daughter. Her life is C R A Z Y. I know because we lived with her for a month. They can be naughty and they make the most awful messes, and they don’t sleep through the night and there are still 3 of them in diapers! Thats a lot of poop. How she stays sane is beyond me (well, she has a really amazing husband which makes things quite a bit easier).
As my children have gotten older, I’ve realized that now there is a new level of responsibility for me as a parent. When they were young, I had to keep them fed and safe. I had to keep the house clean and try to shower occasionally. We had to talk about sharing and not hitting and being nice. But then we could finger paint and go to the park and read stories and I felt like a really good mom. It wasn’t easy – by any stretch. I was tired and I worried a lot and I prayed for help to get through some days. But we made it through.
And now here we are. Our boys are 17, 13, and 11, young men. I can’t help but remember that this part is supposed to be a cake walk, isn’t that what I thought? Because at least I can sleep through the night and I don’t have to change a million diapers or deal with the constant whining and runny noses. We can have rational conversations and we don’t need a babysitter to go out without them.
But – oh my word! Parenting teenagers is a whole different ball game. It’s not enough to simply keep them alive. It’s now about little details like character, work ethic, empathy, personal responsibility, humility, courage and respect. Add communication, spiritual growth, kindness and love. Don’t forget education.
Don’t get me wrong – these things are important for a 5 year old too. In fact, that is where the foundation starts! But there’s a bit of a time crunch when they hit those teen years and you realize that your stewardship over these young’uns won’t last forever. They are more independent and are making real choices for themselves. They don’t rely on you like they used to. Their habits are starting to show and you begin to glimpse their future. Some days that’s a scary place for a parent.
Yesterday was one of those days here on the bus, a day that made Jake and I question our sanity and the job we’re doing as parents. There’s been a lot of bickering between the boys lately. Pointless quarreling and it’s been driving us crazy. Today reached a breaking point. I suppose we could blame it on the tight quarters, but I don’t think it’s just that. The tight quarters are simply magnifying issues that need to be resolved.
Time for a family council. It was bound to happen. Time to define life on the bus. We’re not on vacation. This is LIFE. There is no entitlement. We all have to work for what we want. The bickering has to stop. Personal responsibility must be increased. Living in a small space means we have to work harder to speak softer, to support one another, to lift each other’s burdens. It’s not about one person, it’s about the family.
Parenting requires careful navigation, supervision, and constant course corrections for a positive outcome. It’s about the little things. Because all those little things turn out to be the big things. I’m not a parenting expert, by any stretch. I yell too much and I lose my patience on a regular basis. But I love my kids and I want them to grow up to be capable, hard working, responsible, contributing adults. That won’t happen unless we show them how. We teach by example and through life lessons. Moments like this I’m glad I have Jake by my side. I wouldn’t want to have to navigate this part by myself. There’s too much at stake.
The family council went well, with a minimum of crying (on my part) and a healthy dose of discussion and goal setting. I’m optimistic that we’ll get through this adventure. And hopefully we’ll come out on the other end stronger and more refined. Maybe parenting is as much for the parent as it is for the child. Perhaps that’s all part of Heavenly Father’s plan.