There is no doubt in my mind that raising a child to be a competent, thoughtful, respectful, and loving adult is the most difficult job in the world. I can remember back to my own experiences as a young mother. I found myself constantly second-guessing my every action. With my first daughter, I read books about child rearing and formed erroneous judgments based upon excerpts from my readings. I watched my friends and copied some of the approaches they used to child rearing. If it works for them, it will work for me; or so I thought. Both my husband and I hovered over our oldest child in our desire to protect her from any turmoil that might possibly come her way. Why, I can even remember, I’m embarrassed to say, a time when I wheeled her large coach carriage into a local supermarket, moving the carriage up and down aisles that could barely fit one person, let alone a baby in a large carriage. Was I overly protective? Yes! Was I overbearing? Absolutely.
Happily our daughters have grown into caring, intelligent, respectful, loving adults, but the path along the way was oftentimes a rocky one. It wasn’t until much later in life, during one of those quiet mother-daughter moments, that my eldest daughter said, “Mom, please don’t take this the wrong way, but I wish that you had been less protective of me while I was growing up.” Rather than be offended, I knew perfectly well what she meant. She was my experiment in parenting. I had to do it “right.” I was in a pass/fail mindset. By the time her sister was born, five years later, I was less hard on myself, and consequently, less hard on my daughters. My attention was now divided and if I wanted to keep my sanity, I had to learn to choose my battles.
Now, as a grandmother of two delightful granddaughters, I have the opportunity to view the intricacies of parenting with some detachment. As I watch my daughter and listen to her lamentations, I have many moments of déjà vu. “Mom, I sound like a shrew!” Yep, I know. I used to sound like that! “Mom, all I ask is that she do two simple things and she doesn’t!” Yep, I used to ask the same of you, I think to myself. “Mom, she left her homework assignment at school. Honestly, I don’t know where her head is at times.” Ah yes, I still remember the “due the next day” book report scramble, the notes from the school that remained in both my daughters’ bookbags long after events took place, and those eleventh hour rushes to the post office to “express mail” those time-consuming, college applications. I had several moments of “angst” during my many years of parenting. Guess what! Those moments continue to this day. It all comes under the multifaceted definition of “parent.”
I remember a conversation I once had with my niece about how she prays at night for help in making her a better parent. We both chuckled over the many nonissues that become monumental on the parts of both parent and child. A child sees the parent as constantly nagging. The parent however, sees the “nagging” as important steps in leading the child on the road to becoming a responsible, respectful, independent adult.
I distinctively recall a time during my early years of parenting, when my father-in-law, a wise and kind man, said to me, “Enjoy every moment of watching your children grow. These adventure-filled years are fleeting.” Immersed in the juggling act of marriage, child-rearing, working, and attending classes, I had little time to give any thought to the passage of time. Now, in hindsight, his words of wisdom ring out! I look at my grown daughters today and find myself reflecting back to the days when I would take them for long walks in their strollers and point out the beauty of nature along the way. I see the child whose tears I dried and lips I kissed. I see myself sitting by bedsides reading stories at night, pushing swings “way up high,” making sand castles at the beach, planning birthday parties, laughing at silly jokes, packing the car for family vacations, going to museums, and the myriad of activities that fill a parent’s busy day. The years may fly by, but happily, the memories last a lifetime. As Bob Hope used to say, “Thanks for the memories.”