I know — you’re thinking, “how does she know what every parent should know,” right? Well, I never said it was going to be anything profound or useful or that you had to believe it or even read it. These are just my observations from my many years of being a child; combined with a few years of being a parent; mixed up with a lot of listening to and talking with other parents; with an added sprinkling of with random stuff I pulled out of the clear blue sky.
- No matter how much and/or unconditionally you love your kids; how much love and affection you lavish on them; no matter how much you respect, adore, admire, encourage, praise and show you value them; you will stop being the most important thing in their lives as soon as they hit puberty.
- After your kids hit puberty, you become more and more stupid with every year they age. By the time your kid is in his/her late teens (at which point they have acquired all the wisdom of the ages) you, coincidentally, will have become a blithering moron not fit to be seen with in public. But take heart, when they become adults, they usually tend to become a bit more tolerant of your countless short-comings.
- No matter how much you devote yourself to parenting; no matter how committed you are; how careful you are about always trying to do what’s best for them; no matter how much you sacrifice for your kids; they will find something to Mommy/Daddy Dearest you with later on. And it’s usually the stuff you least expect would traumatize them for life. So, you might as well stop feeling guilty about whatever mistakes you think you’re making along the way.
- When you signed up to be a parent, there was no end-date in the contract. Parenting entails an authentic “till death do us part” clause.
- You are obligated to be there, waiting and eager whenever, and no matter at what age, your kids need you to be there with a shoulder to cry on; with an ear to vent into; with sage advice; with a hot meal; with lots of cash; with somewhere to do their laundry; with their old room ready for them to move into. You must also always be thrilled to be asked to babysit the grandkids. It’s a privilege.
- You are expected always to be over-the-moon with joy whenever your kids decide to spend time with you or call you. Any other reaction will brand you a self-centered, uncaring old bat/coot.
- When your kids give you a gift, you must always be over-the-moon with joy over whatever they have decided you should have. Any other reaction will brand you an ungrateful old bat/coot.
- You are expected to occasionally say no to your kids, no matter what age – to disagree with them sometimes; to disapprove of something they’re doing or saying. This gives them a much needed frame of reference and tells them that you are actually still engaged in the whole parenting thing and not just filling up space in their lives. Also, it gives them a good excuse to feel superior to and/or exasperated with you. What else is a parent for, after all?
- Having said that, you have to make sure you reserve your awesome power of veto for the really important things and not just as a matter of course; or just because you can; or because you’re bigger than them; or because you still pay the bills; or because they’re living under your roof.
- If you could become invisible and follow your kids (no matter what age) around for a couple of days you would be shocked, amazed, horrified, delighted and totally discombobulated at the people they are when you’re not around. You would be surprised how little of their mind-space you occupy and how infrequently they talk about you, compared to how much of your mind-space they occupy and how often you talk about them.
- You can never talk to your kids too much or too often. You might feel like a broken record blathering away to seemingly deaf ears. They might roll their eyes at you at say, “Okaaaaay, we’ve had this conversation a million times!” But carry on regardless. Plague them with questions every day. How are you? What’s new? Everything okay? [i.e.: At the end of every day of my kid’s life I’ve try to asked her to tell me the best and the worst thing that happened that day. I learned that from Mr. Rogers. It’s interesting. It makes them say something. And you never know what might crop up.] Your kids may respond only with grunts or mono-syllables to all the questions you ask, but it still officially counts as communication.
- And, finally, never ever appear needy. Don’t make them feel guilty for leaving you. Don’t make them feel guilty for loving someone more than you. Don’t make them feel guilty for never calling or visiting. And, no matter how old and frail and desperate you become don’t ever ask your kids to come over and bathe you. Please. If things haven’t gone horribly wrong somewhere along the line, they’ll be there for you when you really need them anyway. And, hopefully, you or they will be well-off enough to be able to hire a kindly stranger to help you wash your smelly old bits. Meanwhile, you’re always the parent and they’re always the kid. And they need it to stay that way as long as possible.
If you don’t think any of this is relevant to you, look at the relationship you have/had with your own parents. Sure, you’re doing everything you can with your own kids to correct the mistakes your parents made with you, but your parents said the same thing back in the day about their own parenting of you.