5 Parenting Memos I Did Not Receive

Child on Mountain in Joshua Tree National Park (photo by Yvonne Condes)Parenting is so much more nuanced than I ever imagined.  It was easy when my boys were babies and they couldn’t talk back to me or decide they didn’t want to get in the car. Now that they’re 7 and 9, their thoughts and actions have become complex and challenging. And they’re looking to me (and my husband) for guidance! I feel like all of the other parents are working from a guidebook I did not receive.

Here are the 5 things I wish I knew up to now.

You’re supposed to do their homework projects for them. Okay, you’re not supposed to do them, but you are supposed to help in a meaningful way so the project turns out exactly as if you had done it. I have a very self-motivated child and when he had his first big project due he seemed to have a handle on it. It turns out he didn’t. I now know what I could have done to help him do better, but all of the other parents seemed to know that from the get-go.

Eventually, your kids will repeat everything you say.  I have a mouth like a sailor, but my kids have never repeated any inappropriate thing I’ve said — until this week. We were in the car and as I swerved to avoid a car coming out of a parking space my 7-year-old shouted, “Mama, What the hell are you doing?”  I asked him what he had said. “I said, ‘Mama, What the hell are you doing?” I was sure he was trying to say something else and I asked him why he said that. “Because I want to know what the hell you’re doing.”

It went on like this for way too long. I didn’t ask him where he heard that phrase because I knew the answer already. I didn’t want to overreact either, and have him continue saying it over and over, or say it to his teacher some other time. I’ve said way worse than that and now I realize it’s time to start censoring my language.

Dad will always be more awesome. I don’t mean “dad” literally. I mean the dad figure of the family. The “fun” one. The one who will drive through McDonald’s instead of trying to convince the kids that Tuscan Kale tastes good. The one who lets them play video games and watch lots of TV. It doesn’t matter how many cakes I bake them, bike rides we go on, or movies we see. Dad is great. Intellectually I know that it’s wonderful for them to have a strong and loving father who will guide them through life… But sometimes it would be nice to be the awesome one.

One day, when you hold out your arms for a hug, they won’t come. I was not at all prepared for this one. It seemed like one day my older son was running into my arms and the next he was walking up and patting me on the back. He’s not a little kid anymore and does not need five minutes of hugging before he walks into and out of school every day. But sometimes mom does.

The older they get, the more they need you. This one I had heard a million times, but didn’t believe it. Their brains and bodies keep changing and evolving so quickly it’s hard to keep up. My boys get dressed on their own, make their own lunches, and do various activities, but they need help with homework, rides to sports practice, and someone to talk to about their day. At 9 years old, I was letting myself in the house with my own key, making myself a snack, and turning on the television. It’s a different world and my kids have different needs than I did.

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