At this moment, I’m sitting at my laptop on the far edge of our dining room table, digging deep in my brain for an insightful message to share, something you can relate to that could perhaps help you on your parenting journey.
But how can I inspire you when I’m sitting here shortly after losing my temper with one of my sons (due to frustration about a messy bedroom and chores that were left undone)?
In the midst of the conflict, there was whining, dirty laundry, a moldy lunchbox, candy wrappers, a pile of deconstructed LEGOs, a good dose of crumbs, a yelling mama and tears from both the mama and the 10-year-old. I was not at my best.
I’ve been writing this School Days column for over five years now and although I have experience with parenting (as a mom of four kids, ages 8, 10, 12 and 14) and significant training and involvement in the area of child development as an educator (this is my 19th year of teaching), I want to declare that I certainly do not have this parenting/adulting gig all figured out.
However, I’ve learned a few things these these past 14 years:
Parenting isn’t easy.
Notice that I didn’t say being a parent (although that can come with its own set of challenges). It’s the act of parenting that I find exceptionally challenging. Especially as a mom of four children, I’ve found that this incredible responsibility is simply ever-present. It is constant.
There are a multitude of small but significant parenting decisions I need to make every single day to meet my children’s basic needs — just to keep them ALIVE. There’s nutrition, health and safety, but on top of that, there’s also a huge calling to raise good humans, people of strong moral character who will be contributing members of society.
No pressure, right?
When parents have the capacity to provide beyond their children’s basic needs, parenting should of course involve the guidance of our children’s emotional, social, intellectual and spiritual development. I work hard at it, but I certainly haven’t mastered this sphere of parenting without losing my patience every now and then.
You can’t do it all perfectly, but you can give it your best shot.
Do I want to have daily arguments with my children about their chores, screen time or how unfair it is that one child was asked to do something another sibling didn’t have to do? Nope.
I know sometimes it would just be easier to avoid the conflict alltogether and to give in — and not fight with them about turning off the screen or picking up the trail of laundry and stray socks strewn all over the house.
Sometimes I do let things go. You have to “pick your battles,” as they say. But I know if I do that too often, my children won’t learn the responsibility and accountability I want them to take with them beyond the parameters of my guidance.
Perfect parenting is a fallacy. Good parenting involves love, patience, consistency, empathy and forgiveness — with our children and with ourselves. They will make mistakes and we will make mistakes, but each new day we have with them is an opportunity to help them be the best they can be.
Children are a big responsibility, but they are gifts.
They truly are. I love my kids more than I could ever describe. And I feel so blessed and grateful for four busy, healthy children — each full of personality and life. Each individual in our household is loved, respected and valued.
When we aren’t in the midst of our occasional squabbles or conflicts, we have a lot of fun together.
In our household, there’s rarely a dull moment, which keeps life interesting and certainly entertaining! My hope is that my children, and all children, know they are gifts to this world.
Love them unconditionally, even if they occasionally drive you nuts.
Megan Devine is an elementary school teacher who lives in Northeastern Minnesota. Follow her blog — Kids, Lakes, Loons and Pines — at megdevine.com.