Do you ever worry that you’re messing your kids up for life? You do? All the time? Oh, good–then I’m not alone.
Parenting, I feel, is a tenuous balancing act: loving a child where they’re at while encouraging them to continue growing. Finding areas where growth is necessary is easy; finding the balance between loving and leading is the tough part of this neverending task.
My three-year-old is a shouter. I’m not sure if it’s because he’s a youngest and he had to be loud to get my attention as a tot, or if it’s just something in his genes. He’s also strong-willed, temperamental, and the world’s pickiest eater. How do I choose my battles? (And how do I stay consistent when it is absolutely exhausting to say, “No, we don’t shout at people. How can you say that nicely?” three hundred fifty gazillion times a day.)
My five-year-old is a pest. She can be sweet and generous, but she often prefers to push her brothers’ buttons, test any boundaries I set, and feign ignorance when confronted with her poor choices. She’s also a “box-checker”, enjoying the feeling of having completed something no matter how poorly it was done–no matter whether the task is one she chooses and enjoys or one she is assigned. Scribbled a stick figure? Picture done. Ran the rag over one corner of the table? Table wiped.
My six-year-old is the king of excuses and cluelessness. He’s never at fault for anything that goes wrong (“I can’t help it that he walked past when I was swinging that truck around in the living room!”), he always has a reason why he can’t do as you ask, and his absentminded craziness is enough to drive anyone insane. (Me: “For the third time, would you QUIT threading pepperoni on your fingers and just EAT YOUR PIZZA!” Peatie: [looking surprisedly at his fingers] “Huh?”)
The other problem with this balancing act is that it’s never-ending. If we’ve finally found a way to help our children gain ground on one of their weak points, another ugly habit rears its head. We move from phases of tantrums to back-talk, public muteness to public rudeness, picky eating to disgusting eating. Anyone? And I wonder, “What have I done wrong? Are my children always going to move from one poor behavior to the next? Will they ever turn out to be capable, responsible, compassionate adults?” What’s a parent to do?
No answers this time. I just pray hard and try to get to bed earlier so I have more patience. (Not that it’s working so well…)