…whatever stage you’re at right now, you probably feel. If you have an infant, it’s hard, especially the long, sleepless nights, the illnesses, the first time you leave your child with a babysitter so you can have a few moments of “grown-up time” with your spouse or other adults. Then you get to the “terrible-twos” and it’s hard…until you realize that you were deceived by the parenting masses, because it’s actually the threes. No one tells you that until your child is well-established in the terrible-twos stage, then they say, “Oh! Just wait ’til they turn THREE!” and you think, “Really?! Great! Thanks a lot!”. (You have been warned. You’re welcome.) Then they go to daycare, nursery school, or kindergarten. Then they go for a full-day of full-time school. Next thing you know, they have a car, girl/boyfriend (often read: stress/drama) and are graduating. Then it’s off to college or whatever.
Every stage has its challenges and parenting never truly completely ends; from what my mother has told me, there are new challenges even after your child is married and has their own children–your grandchildren–with whom you really have little say as to how to raise them. The ways we have to deal with the challenges we parents are presented with are greatly reduced as our children grow up. We cannot protect our children from things or kiss their boo-boos to make them better, like we did when they were little.
I love this commercial! I always laugh at the part where the baby is crying and turns toward the guy–the expression on that face is priceless. It’s not that I like to laugh at crying babies (although, when they aren’t your own and they are just being fussbudgets, it is cute and I do tend to laugh because of the cuteness), but rather that I recognize that baby’s expression because I saw it in my own children. It’s the “look-what-happened-and-I-need-sympathy-and-for-you-to-help-me-with-this-horrible-development-WAAAHHH!!” look.
Having two children, one in high school and the other in college, we are nearing the end of the bulk of our parenting experience. Even though we’ve already been through the high school parenting stage with our son, our daughter is a completely different person with a completely different personality and that means that we will still have issues to deal with, they will just be different. Parenting a teen in high school is a challenge and we’ve been extraordinarily blessed in that neither of our children have had many issues that you read about or perhaps, even deal with in your own homes–drugs, poor choice of friends, delinquency, bullying, failing grades, etc.. Having had one child successfully make it through high school without any of us ending up at the funny farm–or pris0n–gives us confidence that, with the parenting experience we have gained, all will be well with child #2, inevitably.
Moving on to the next stage of parenting: post-high school. Honestly, I empathize with you new moms, toddler-moms, first-time-off-to-school moms and so on, but I have to say, I think the most difficult part of parenting is yet to come. Having your child, your baby, move out into the world, equipped with and shaped by all the influences of their childhood, including your learn-as-you-go parenting skills, and watching them learn to live by making mistakes is, in my opinion, the most difficult stage of parenting. When they are out on their own, trying to find their way, you can’t do it for them. All you can do is try to guide them with advice and opinions regarding situations and circumstances they are in…and offer up lots and lots of prayers. Ultimately, their decisions are their own and they have to own the consequences of their decisions, regardless of whether they are good or bad.
Seeing your child struggling with a difficult situation, especially one resulting from a poor choice, is exceedingly difficult. You want to rush in and make it all better, but cannot for a variety of reasons–it’s their life, their business, their decision, their mistake, and they have to fix it and, hopefully, learn from it. More often then not, you have absolutely no influence over or say in the situation, anyway, especially if it’s a job or whatever–it’s all theirs. Unless, of course, your name is Marie Barone, the infamous busybody TV mom on the Everybody Loves Raymond show.
So, here we are in one of the final stages of parenting, the letting-go stage. We have to learn to let our kids go and watch from a distance as they basically attempt to learn to walk again, with the occasional stumble and fall. However, there can be no rushing over to pick them up, brush them off, and make sure they’re okay. All you can do is continue to remind them that, regardless of how old they get, how far away they are, or how difficult life may become, you are always going to be their parents and, although you can’t fix their boo-boos and may not have all the answers, you are still there for them with whatever help you can offer–wisdom, advice, an ear to listen, a shoulder to cry on, encouragement, and prayer.