Remember when your parents told you they walked to school uphill both ways, carrying water, in 8 ft of snow? They wish they had it as good as you! All kidding aside my dad carried his one pair of GOOD shoes as he walked barefoot to school for several miles because they had to last him all year. He had 2 pairs of jeans and 2 school shirts so that his poverty stricken mother could wash and dry the one he wore the day before – by hand. He was raised in rural Appalachia so he really did know some hardships.
His parents never met a single teacher he had. There were no parent conferences. He went to school, held down a part time job and helped around the farm. There were no dining room discussions about expectations or anything else. Miraculously, he turned out to be a great man. But his two brothers and sisters? Not so much. Daddy had natural aptitude in his studies and he actually enjoyed learning so he lucked out. He was also the only one drafted in to the Army so he was also exposed to other cultures and travel which made him even a more balanced individual.
When he married my mom when I was nine years old, he saw that I loved academics too so we shared lots of books and conversations about philosophy and nature. He is the reason I know how to identify so many trees by the leaves they produce. If I really had to, I could survive in the woods for a few days because I know what to eat and what not to eat. I can determine what kind of water is safe to drink and I know not to mess with wild mushrooms even if I am starving. Unlike his parents he was very involved in my education. He knew my teachers by name but he only visited the school once in my academic career. He was a different parent than his own but he was a great parent.
What kind of parent am I? These are different times. So, of course I am a different parent than my father. I am not a helicopter parent but I do advocate for my children far more than he did. I have observed that my two daughters are polar opposites so I try to be a different mom to each girl. One needs constant reminders to make lists and follow them as her ADHD distracts her at every turn. The other needs more privacy and the time to think without being rushed as much as possible. I try to help them gain tools to succeed without me rather than doing everything for them.
I have been judged by many for the choices I make. My mother in law called me rigid once. Now she says the kids have good manners so I guess it is okay that I was rigid at some point. LOL A good friend once told me I was a mean mom because I told my children no. There were mothers who believed in “free range parenting”. I don’t know what that is but her kids ran around outside at their whim and they smelled bad. My own husband disagrees with some of my methods. Regardless, I feel good about my parenting abilities. I’m not perfect and that is not my goal. I do try to balance the amount of involvement I have in their lives. I volunteer at their schools to be visible to the staff and to support them. I began with a hour a day when they were just starting Kindergarten. They loved seeing me here and there at school. I then volunteered only one day a week at the library when they were in upper elementary. I substituted and helped out here and there in middle school. Now I volunteer and ask about their comfort level of having me around the school. They are teenagers and everything is awkward. LOL They know I will be available if they ever need me.
I advocate for extra help if they need it, I am their cheerleader but I never lie for them nor do I do their assignments. I don’t need a trophy or an award. I do all this because I believe this is what a parent is supposed to do. My mother was not involved at all. She just thought kids automatically grew up all by themselves without any guidance.
It hurts to be criticized but it is their opinion and maybe some of it comes from a good place and they mean well. But I decided long ago that I was not going to let the insults or the misguided advice dissuade me from my goal. I will be available to my children, I will teach them everything I know and I will celebrate whomever they become. Once they are out of the house I will love them just the way they are. While they are children and in my home, I will try to share whatever I can. I am proud to be their mother and feel privileged to be a part of their process.
I hope they grow up happy, healthy and mentally capable. I hope they remember to love everyone the way they are and that it is also okay not to like everyone. I hope they value themselves as strong women but are not afraid to ask for help when they need some. I hope they are financially secure and will not need to lean on another to survive in the world. I hope they are successful enough to reach out and help people less fortunate than them. I hope they make lasting memories with people worthy of them.
I am sure they will remember my faults and the mistakes I made along the way. I humbly accept that I have made mistakes. I truly believe though, they will understand that when humans raise humans mistakes are always made. Through it all, I hope they will remember I did my best and it was from a loving place. After all, that is all parents can hope for, right?