Thursday, February 28, 2013

Parenting 101: Really, This is On-the-Job Training

We welcomed our first child into the world at 2:08 A.M. on a snowy February night in 2007.  Before that my husband and I had only been a married couple for 15 months, but in an instant we became parents.  We knew our lives would forever be changed, but I don't think we realized just how much at the time.  In fact, I feel like we still can't fully comprehend how much our lives will continue to change as we face new joys and challenges with our kiddos.  Being a parent is a lifetime commitment and a 24/7 job filled with ups and downs, but it is not a title that I will ever regret having.

When I think of the roles we play in our children's lives, these are some words that come to mind:  nurse, teacher, coach, mentor, advocate, guide, protector, and cheerleader.  Our most important job is to make sure all of their basic needs are being met and that they feel safe and loved.  This alone can be a daunting task, depending on what phase they're going through.  Now, let's pile on some of our other duties and see how much success we have!  

It seems like those first years we spend a lot of time teaching, cheering, protecting, and nursing.  There is so much to learn in those first few years and so many milestones are met early in their lives.  We do our best to cheer them on and provide opportunities for them to learn new skills and thrive.  We are lucky enough to be rewarded for our hard work with big grins and giggles when they succeed.  There are also the difficult times trying to diagnose what ailments are bothering our kiddos:  teeth, ears, foods that disagree, all comes with the territory and after awhile we get pretty good about figuring it all out.  

As time goes on, though, in addition to those roles already mentioned, we begin to touch more on coaching, mentoring, guiding, and advocating.  Our kids move on from needing us by their sides to assist to craving independence and being able to do things on their own.  We get to spend some time on the sidelines coaching and cheering for them, but still take the time to work together, too.  We do our best to teach them to be kind, caring, responsible, and respectful.  There are many life lessons to be learned over the years and we try our best to provide our kiddos with ways to cope and work their way through issues, but sometimes no matter how hard we've tried, a roadblock presents itself.

Our roadblock has been the beginning of the school-age years.  Preschool was great, but elementary school has not been so kind.  I'll be honest, it was very hard for me to send my oldest out into the "real world."  For me it seemed that the innocence of childhood was coming to an end.  He would be exposed to more things, not all good, and come in contact with people who may not be so kind.  Initially we spent some time advocating for his safety regarding his peanut allergy.  While these are necessary measures, they can be a bit isolating at times for him.  Most of the time he is very understanding and accepts that these measures keep him safe, but there are days that sitting at a lunch table without any choice of who you get to sit by stinks.  

As is typically the norm in schools, there are a few kids in his class that are not so kind.  By his assessment, he has become a target of their teasing and gets picked on a lot.  We've tried to guide him in how to handle these situations, but it doesn't seem to be very successful in this case.  It has been disappointing for us, to say the least, that kindergarten has not been the fun and positive first-year school experience that we had hoped it would be.  It has been a struggle and I hope that we see some improvement next year.  If not, we may have to re-evaluate our options.  He is a bright kid with a kind heart and great imagination and we want him to be happy and enjoy learning.  It is heartbreaking to see the emotions that come flooding out some days.  Our instinct to protect our child is quite strong and we just pray that things improve and we get through these next few months with as few problems as possible.

I completely understand that school can be tough on many kids, it's just hard when it's your own child.  What I didn't realize, though, was how hard it would also be on me.  I just want my little guy to feel good about himself, feel safe and welcome at school, and to not fear silly things like his shoe coming untied (they won't tie their shoes for them;  he can tie his own, just not quickly or tight enough to keep them tied all day) or making a mistake when doing his work.  This mama bear is emotionally exhausted as well and looking forward to wrapping up this year.  Maybe things will change in the next few months, but maybe they'll stay the same.  Whatever the case, we will continue to support and listen to our little guy and help him navigate his way through his troubles as best we can!

I think we all need to remember that in a culture where we are pushing our children to grow up too quickly, there really is no changing human biology.  Kids develop at different rates and at times we may expect certain behaviors or skills that they are simply not ready for.  We all need to encourage our children and really consider if our expectations are appropriate.  I know that at times, since he is our oldest, we've expected too much from him emotionally and behaviorally, but this has been a great lesson in recognizing those mistakes.  He is a little boy who needs to be able to express his feelings and desires and we really need to listen to and accept them.  This doesn't mean he will always get his way, but sometimes our kids are simply telling us what they need and we need to respect that.  A friend shared this on Facebook one day and I want to share it with you as well.  I have printed it off and plan to frame it and put it up in our home.


No comments:

Post a Comment