Saturday, August 6, 2016

Eighteen Years in a Blink and an Essay

If I were tempted to offer parenting advice to those new to the endeavor, I'd immediately laugh at myself, because who am I? That's true, and also this: I feel as I send my firstborn off to college that I know less than I ever did about parenting. As the world becomes scarier and scarier (it doesn't really; that's just perception, but a healthy one, on the whole, because it spurs corrective action), it's trickier to figure out how to prepare one's offspring for it.

Except - and maybe this is what I have learned, after all, about parenting - you don't have to prepare your children. They end up preparing themselves quite handily for the world they will inherit.

I remember as a young parent fretting about so many tiny things. It is a luxury to fret about tiny things, all the while believing the tiny things to be large. Which teachers my sons would be assigned every school year serves as an example (one of many, many). When I was in school back in the Jurassic period, I had my share of fabulous teachers (thank you, Alice Gottlieb and Karl Kirchwey), and a few not-so-fabulous ones. As one does. I learned what I needed to in either case, and discovered inner resources I hadn't known I possessed when forced occasionally to steer the course of my own education. So that's how it goes. Every experience teaches something of value.

As a parent I have taught by example what not to do as often as I have taught what to do, and that should be expected. Who among us is a perfect model of what an adult (in the best sense of the word, as in a mature, enlightened person) should be?

So to the second piece of parenting wisdom I've accrued: do not be afraid to apologize to your children when (not if) you have been less adult than you intended to be. They appreciate an apology, and they never take advantage of one.

I wish I had sat down and played more with my kids. You don't get that time back, the time when they want to play on the floor. Grandchildren, just you wait!

One more bit of advice I promised I would not offer: do drive your kids hither and yon when they are teenagers. Because the best (most spontaneous, most genuine) conversations will take place in the car. Trust me on this. Why the car? I think because its occupants do not have to look at one another as they talk. Secrets are revealed, fears voiced, annoyances aired. Magic happens in the car.

So let's recap:

1. Don't sweat the small stuff, because children are sponges and absorb what they need from any experience, ideal or (more often) not.

2. Don't be above apologizing when you as parent are in the wrong.

3. Get on the floor -- not to scrub it. The scrubbing can wait. The time children spend building with Legos or dressing dolls or drawing is short, and precious for it.

4. Car time with teenagers is essential.

That wasn't too bad, was it?


Christine said...

perfect advice. xo

#2 is so often overlook yet is perhaps one of the most important ones

Chaotic Joy said...

Goodness, I got all teary. Beautiful, And full of so much truth. Especially this. "It is a luxury to fret about tiny things, all the while believing the tiny things to be large." So hard to keep that perspective.