Becoming a parent is a life-changing event that no one can fully prepare you for. Sure, fellow moms can recommend their favorite baby items or share advice on how they would handle a situation, but it takes the reality of having your own family to make you realize all the challenges that accompany parenthood.
From balancing the curveballs of life to raising a child who is very much their own person, being a parent is an incredible gift full of extraordinary splendor — but it is also a considerable undertaking that deserves a lot of celebration, persistence, and selflessness.
It’s only now, as I’ve experienced these six short years of being a mom, that I am able to understand the complexities of parenting and appreciate the decisions made by my own wonderful parents.
Gaining a new understanding of my parents
Growing up, my mom and dad worked tirelessly to teach me right from wrong; promoted and expected ethical behavior from me; guided me to be successful, but also let me experience failure; provided me with heart-intentioned guidance and stayed persistent with their direction even if I rebelled against it; assured me that I would always be supported, and encouraged me to pursue my dreams.
Recently I had a day where it felt like every single thing about being a parent was hard, nothing seemed to be going right. As the day came to an end, I found myself thinking about my own parents and the difficulties they overcame, and my gratitude and respect toward them reached new heights.
When I reflect on how my parents handled certain situations, I hope that by sharing the lessons I learned from their love and guidance, I can duplicate their strengths and also provide a bit of insight for other families.
Instilling rules and helping your child become their best self
As a teenager, I remember mouthing off about the rules my parents had in place for me.
“Ugh, why do I always have to be the first one home before my friends? Why couldn’t I have more than one friend ride in the car with me? Why do you care so much about who I was hanging out with? Why do I have to keep my room clean, it’s my room? Why do I always have to call you when I reach my destination?”
As an adult, I realize these rules were in place to protect me, to teach me, and to help me develop character and responsibility. These rules helped make me who I am today and I appreciate that my parents stood strong and endured the monstrosity of a teenage girl who was convinced she already knew everything about life. They were determined to equip me with the tools and resources to grow into the best version of myself.
Teaching our children decision-making skills
A parent can only teach their child so much or tell them something so many times before accepting that their child is the one responsible for their own decisions. There were decisions I made in my teenage and college years that my parents didn’t agree with. They shared their feelings about what I was choosing but ultimately they gave me room to make my own decisions. Sometimes these decisions resulted in me making mistakes; however, even with the given independence from my parents, they always stood by me and joined me when it was time to pick up the pieces.
I have young children and when anyone gets a boo-boo, I feel their pain to the core and want to be the one wearing the falling tears instead of them. If I feel shaken over a scraped knee, I can’t imagine how hard it must have been for my parents to let me make my own decisions, even though they didn’t agree. While they may have sat on the sidelines watching me make my “plays,” my parents were always there with open arms when I needed help “off the field.” I am dreading the days of watching my children make mistakes that cause them hurt. But just like my parents were there for me, I vow to always be there for my children.
Supporting our children and their dreams
What we want for our children may not be what they want, and we should always embrace the beauty of their individuality and encourage them to seek who they want to be. We are their biggest advocates for finding their true selves and living their best lives. From seasoned parents that I’ve talked to, this can sometimes be hard. My oldest son loves spiders; I hate spiders. He loves bugs; I hate bugs. He has found multiple mole crickets and adopted them as pets. He names them. He bathes them. He feeds them. He puts them in his pocket and takes them for bike rides. He takes great care of them. While I am cringing on the inside at the thought of this alien-like bug crawling all over my son, I refrain from voicing too much of my dislike. I try to show an interest in what he is doing because he enjoys it, and if he is happy, that is all that matters. Who knows, maybe he’ll be an entomologist someday?
My parents always supported my hobbies and my interests. I rode horses for most of my childhood and into young adulthood. Financially, it was never easy on my parents, but they supported my passion to be in the saddle. I learned so much from owning, taking care of, and riding horses. I am forever grateful that my parents were so selfless and encouraged my love for horses. Just like my parents, I strive to support my children in whatever path they choose.
Being a parent instead of a friend
“Babe, be the parent!”
This is a phrase I often hear my husband say.
Sometimes being the parent is just hard; it is so much easier being the cool, funny, carefree, friend. But there is no doubt — a child needs a parent who acts like an adult and is there to show guidance and establish structure.
There will come a time when your child is older that you’ll have a more friend-like relationship with your child, but until that time comes, being a parent is one of the gifts you can give to your child. My parents did a great job with this. Growing up, I enjoyed a friendly relationship with my parents, but I also respected boundaries. Today I still respect my parents as my parents but have grown to love the friendship we have also formed. I pray that my role as a parent to my own children will hopefully facilitate a motherly-friend bond throughout their adulthood.
Dear Mom and Dad, I cannot thank you enough for everything you’ve done for me and the unconditional love you still provide. I have always loved you with my whole heart, but after becoming a parent, I have fallen even deeper in love with you. I am so glad that my kids get to experience life with you too.