Wouldn't it be great if there was a parenting handbook that detailed the exact recipe for happy, well-adjusted children who grew up to be phenomenal adults? Alas, no such handbook exists, and so many of us turn to our own parents for the roadmap to successful child-rearing.
Parenting is largely a game of make-it-all-up-as-you-go-along-just-keep-them-alive-until-they-make-it-out-of-the-house. We all just try our best with fingers crossed.
There's also no way to predict what type of child you will have or what type of parent you will become. And it's only natural that we draw upon our own childhoods for inspiration on what to do right... and what mistakes to avoid.
While my mother did her best to prepare me for some of the joys -- and not-so-joys -- that were coming my way when I became a parent, there are some lessons I just had to learn on my own.
Here are five parenting lessons I did not learn from my mother.
1. Your children may not get along, or even like each other, and that's OK. I grew up basically an only child. I have a few siblings on my father's side and my mom had my little sister when I was 10. My sister and I did not truly hang out and become friends until I was in my late twenties, and I always thought that if she and I were closer in age, we would have been the best of friends growing up. Wrong. Well, we could have been; but as I have witnessed with my own three kids, closer in age is not a best friend guarantee. And sibling rivalry is real. I have two sons, ages 17 and 7, and an 11- year-old daughter. They fight every day, and about everything. What movie to watch on TV or who is sitting too close to whom in the back seat. The only time they get along is when they are sleeping. I've picked up a part-time job as peace broker and while it may last a few minutes, they are right back to fighting in no time.
2. Raising two sons and a daughter is a whole other ball game. My mom had two daughters. So, when it comes to raising sons and a daughter, I'm in new territory. While my kids receive the same amount of love, care and attention, I would be lying if I said I raised my boys and my girl exactly the same. I do not promote double standards, but I do believe in preparing my children for reality. The reality of the world is that women and men are not treated equally. If I raised my children to expect anything different, I would be doing them a serious disservice. For the most part, they have the same age-appropriate privileges and chores, but there are certain areas that differ. For example, I have already told my teenage son to start thinking about life after school, because living with mommy is not an option after college. On the other hand, my daughter can live at home as long as she'd like; and preferably until she gets married.
3. Your life will belong to others...for a long time to come. I was not involved in many activities growing up. I was a cheerleader for a couple of years and was a basketball manager (i.e. water girl) for a year. So, my mom did not have to do much in the way of carpools, practices, etc. Based on this, I formed this fantasy that when my kids grew to school age, I could once again reclaim the life I once had. Oh, how wrong I was. It only gets worse, not better! As my kids get older, there are more and more obligations, activities, and events placed on my schedule. Between football, soccer, competitive dance, girl scouts and Tae Kwon Do I can pretty much forget about having my life back anytime soon.
4. There are days where you will wish you weren't a parent. My mother made it seem so pleasurable. She was always happy to see me, always happy to spend time with me and always seemed to appreciate the life takeover I brought her way. So imagine my surprise when, shortly after having my third child, I sat in my room crying and wishing that I could start over. No kids, no diapers, no playdates, no weight gain. I just wanted a redo. Then my daughter came over to me and said, "Mommy, I love you." The tears went away, I held her tight and promised myself I would never forget how wonderful it feels to be a parent and have a child's love. That was, of course, until the next time I cried my eyes out and wished I could rewind time.
5. Being a parent truly is the most important job you will ever have. You hear it all the time and it may start to sound trite, but it is the truest statement about parenting. Nobody can teach you how important it is to be in charge of another human being; it is something you have to learn by doing. To see how your thoughts and ideas project onto another person and shape their world is powerful. For me to have this experience with three very different little people has been the most amazing gift I could have ever imagined. Sure, they eventually grow up, move out, and belong to the community. But for the most important, life-shaping years of their lives you are the authority -- teaching them what's right from wrong, showing them how to be humble & polite, and helping them figure out what they are to the world. I would love to know what could be more important than that.
This post first appeared on Memoirs of a Clueless Woman®.
Carin Kilby Clark is a happy mom of three, writer, and mommyhood mentor who shares lifestyle and parenting insights on her inspirational blog.