Monday, September 20, 2010

Judging by Their Worst Day

It started out to be such a good weekend morning.  The oldest spent the night at a friends house.  The five and six year-olds were laughing and playing quietly in their room, and the baby was eating happily in his highchair.  On went the peppy cleaning music and I moved another load of laundry.  Everything was moving along wonderfully, peacefully.  As I entered the boys' room to put their clothes away, I was faced with the aftermath of a tornado, or so it seemed.  There were broken plastic hangers strewn about.  The contents of their closet was behind their dresser.  Every toy they owned was piled in the middle of their floor, and the telltale snack wrappers, from their booty dug up from the pantry, were stuffed between their beds and the wall.  It was like they were pint-sized drunken rock stars trashing a hotel room, right down to a five inch hole in their wall.  How on Earth did they do that in stealth mode?  How do you wrap your mind around that.  it makes no sense.  It defies reason.  So much for peaceful.

Except for putting their closet back together, I made them clean the entire thing.  It took four hours before it was spotless, four hours of yelling and screaming and crying and carrying on, four hours of time-outs and everything else under the sun.  It was four hours, but I refused to let them off the hook.  Then when the oldest came home, apparently after not sleeping for two nights, I got attitude for reminding him he had chores.  I had to wake him up three times and he the nerve to ask me what my problem was and why can't I just leave him alone.  Really?  There was no respect to be had that day and there was none given.

However, this is not about our imperfect front.  This is not about our lack of patience or understanding.  This is not about good parenting vs. bad parenting.  As parents, we tend to judge our skills based on our children's worst day.  Tantrums, backtalk, screaming fits that pluck that last nerve all serve as proof of our own ineptitude.  When our wits' end is frayed, that is when we should be proud of ourselves for not returning our little angel-butts (1/2 angels and 1/2 pains in the butt) to whence they came.  Of course we love our children.  Of course it is their job to test boundaries, and it is ours to hold fast and teach them.  Our actions will give them the tools they'll need to navigate their own paths through life.  It's easy enough to say that in writing.  Life, however, is made up of lessons that are hard to live.

I've read plenty of books, articles, and blogs by both the "professionals" and regular parents like me.  I have come to realize that people, in general, are vain.  There are so many people trying to offer help or advice on how to be the best parent you can be.  Obviously it is easier to tell someone what they should do or how they should treat and discipline their children.  Unfortunately, most of these people put forth their best days effort.  Best case scenarios only make us normal, everyday people feel even less deserving of their little gifts from God.  Even though, in real life, I have yet to meet a parent who doesn't give kudos to their kids for all the good and blame themselves for all the bad.  Whether its bad choices, bad behavior, bad grades or an embarrassing lack of table manners if it isn't good, it is our fault.  After all, we are the examples.  We are the ones teaching them.  They had to learn it from somewhere, right?

No, they are little people that are easily influenced.  Fun, is good.  They will learn that there are consequences for their actions by acting and reaping the consequences.  So each act of willful independence, each shirking of the rules is just them learning.  It is harder on us as parents than it is on them.  We should not judge ourselves by their worst day.  We should take pride in all they do right.  We should do our best and do it with love.  No one can ask for more.  Every day they grow into their own person.  Every now and then, they will test us one to many times and we may lose our minds just a little.  You are normal.  I am normal.  Perfectly well behaved children in all circumstances, not so much. 

I am grateful that chaotic days like this are few and far between.  So, from one sometimes overwhelmed parent to all the others out there.  Even whey they are tornadoes, you are a good parent.  Even when they do the opposite of what you have taught them, you are a good parent.  Even when you look at them and their disasters and want to run screaming in the other direction, you are a good parent.  We all need a little help sometimes.  We all need a break.  Even when those options are not available, and we are not at our best....we are still good parents.

Though the rewards won't come until they are grown, productive members of society, rest assured that generations of parents have and will continue to have those days that make us question what God was thinking giving us kids.  Then there are the rest of the days that are filled with silly songs and magic kisses.  That is what we hold onto when they are plucking that last nerve. 

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