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Parenting Big Kids
Before I had kids I had lots of ideas about what parenting would be like. Some were myths built by episodes of Family Ties and Hallmark cards, but many more were my own myths I created.
For instance, I thought it would be easier than it has been….I thought I would make fewer mistakes….I thought I’d get more sleep….I thought I would like to play hopscotch and board games whenever my kids asked….’cause, hey – I’m fun!
Well, all of those proved to be a bit off. And that’s not all. I also had this idea about how much our kids need us as they grow older, and I was a bit off about that as well….
I used to think that as my children got older they would need less and less of my emotional and physical energy. They would get more interested in friends and hobbies than spending time with me, and then I could really get more rest and have time for a career.
I invested loads and loads of energy into my kids and into my parenting when they were babies and preschoolers. I was a stay-at-home mom and then their teacher….”being a mom” was what I did those years.
When both girls were fully settled into elementary school I started my practice and began investing a lot more time into my work. I assumed that they didn’t need as much of me, so I began spreading my heart and brain energy around a bit more.
To my surprise, my kids have still needed me….as much as they always have…just in different ways. And these different ways require as much emotional energy as carrying a crying toddler off a playground.
They need patience, they need ideas and problem-solving, they need compassion, they need hugs, they need play, they need connection time, they need to feel special, they need arms to cry in. And because their heartaches and fears are bigger and more mature, they actually feel heavier in my heart and on my mind.
My daughter told me a few months ago that she wished I worked less and didn’t “do so many workshops.” For the first moment I felt defensive….
“What?? I design my work schedule to be home in the afternoons with you! Sure, I’m working on the computer for some of that time, but hey – at least we’re together!”
But in the next breath I had this moment of clarity.
I realized that as much time as I spent with her at home when she was young, nurturing our little family and building a safe nest, she won’t remember any of that. She’s going to remember me helping her through the betrayal of a friend, or making it through algebra, or taking walks in the neighborhood and talking about the places she wants to travel in her lifetime.
Right now…these days…THIS WEEK….is what they’re going to remember. And I need to remember to bring as much of my heart and soul to the table as I did when they were three.
So in the days since I’ve been really trying on the idea that it’s time to let go of the myth that I’m less needed these days, and remembering that creating memories of connection and building relationship is as important as learning to use the potty and using words instead of hitting.
I still get to have time for myself, grow a business, and spend more time with my husband…but all with the mindfulness that I need to maintain enough balance and life/work boundaries to protect my parenting life.
It’s been an incredible reminder that as a parent I’m an eternal student, learning as I go along. It’s amazing how many new lessons are around each bend for me….even when I talk about parenting all day!
But I wasn’t wrong about everything….
I’m definitely getting more sleep.