Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Welcome To Parenting, Valerie Style

Hi Folks!

It's your friendly widow blogger with a post less likely to induce depressive disorder and more likely to just piss you off instead. A refreshing change of pace right?

So. Maybe you are like me and you look around and see a sea of other parents out there, struggling under the weight of their ergo baby carriers and organic juice boxes, pleading in a non-confrontational voice with little Skyler or Gavin (so as not to inhibit his burgeoning sense of self esteem or creativity) to please stop playing call of duty in 10 minutes so you two can sit down and do homework together (Which really means you're going to do his homework while he whines and shuffles and says "I don't knoooooowww! It's too haaaaaaard!!!" Right? Yeah, I know. I get it.). I have sat in gyms full of parents one-upping each other on everything from their kids grades and touchdowns to learning disorders. Munchhausen's anyone?

Let's take a little quiz, shall we?

How many times, when asked about yourself or your hobbies or interests, have you answered by describing your children and/or their hobbies? How many of you simply drew a blank?

How often is your free time/weekend time completely consumed by your kids activities?

Do your kids schedules dominate your families routine? 

When was the last time you completed a project of your own? Spent a half hour wandering aimlessly in a museum? Went to a film that wasn't animated?

Ugggh. Do you hear that wooshing sound? That's your life, passing you by.

Becoming a parent is one of the purest, most difficult joys a person can experience. It is a process of immeasurable love, nobility, patience & humility. But the truth of it is that our kids need us far, far less than we need them.

See, I have this crazy notion that your children may have come from you but they are. not. you. I've met some parents who forget that. They seem to keep trying to re-live their past through their kids... pushing in places that just don't need pushing and ignoring truths that would create an even richer, more dynamic relationship with their children. Don't get me wrong... everyone needs guidance and direction. But acknowledging that you have this amazing, nearly independent little human running around that has their own thoughts, feelings, intrinsic values, outlook... we can influence, we can gently suggest. We sometimes have to draw the line and take a hard stance. We often have to be the bad guy. But there is nothing as magical as the selflessness involved in loving this alien being you've helped to bring up... watching them thrive & loving them as they are.

Our culture currently promotes the ideal of the frazzled, chronically busy and burnt out parent as some sort of badge of honor. We are to sacrifice our sanity, our health and our happiness on the altar of success as society dictates: the  job, big house, flashy cars, cool gadgets & kids who are perpetually BUSY.

Do we ever stop to think if that is what is actually good for our kids? How about encouraging a few healthy passions? How about making time for boredom as a learning tool? I can't tell you how often my kids have built amazing things with cardboard and duct tape because they were bored and I didn't rush in to entertain them.

I have a confession: I have never enjoyed "playing" with my kids. Set me up with a board game or a craft, making dinner together or hanging out doing something we all enjoy and, especially as they get older, we have a great time. But playing kitties or superheroes or whatever? Nope. That's what you have playmates, each other and imaginary friends for. And frankly, my kids have never needed anyone to play court jester. They have big brains they put to good use and a healthy expectation of what Mom will and will not do for them.

Becoming a single parent has been, by far, one of the greatest challenges I've faced. I'll admit that sometimes I simply throw my hands up and yell "I can't do this!" Having my life derailed means figuiring out exactly what I need to be happy & knowing that in just a few short years, if I do my job right, my babies will leave the nest and I'll only be able to embarrass them when they come home to raid the fridge and do laundry.

So, call it selfish if you want. I'm cultivating a life that is definitely centered on my children but with plenty of room for me. Figuring out what I want and where the yellow brick road is leading me. Interestingly, I've found some fellow travelers along the way. Our kids may not be the future Ivy league-rs (or they might!) but they are INTERESTING PEOPLE. And the world needs more interesting people.