Raising children is hard. Raising children is work. Raising children is hard work.
Before I had kids, I was well aware that raising children was hard work. I was raised by my mother, for goodness’ sake. I knew that when I would have children, there would be no excuses. No excuses to give anything but my all. My mother taught me that. But she wasn’t clear about the amount of torment I would endure as a mother. Oh, she warned me. However, I didn’t understand her warnings until the day my son was born. “Some day you will understand,” she said. Yes, mother. You were right.
When I say torment, I am not talking about the torment of witnessing my child throw a tantrum in the middle of the grocery store on a Sunday afternoon. I am not talking about the torment of cleaning up my child’s diarrhea in the bathtub. I am not talking about the torment of hearing siblings fight in the backseat of the vehicle while being stuck in traffic. No, that’s not torment.
Torment is witnessing your child’s first (or twentieth) bloody mouth from falling. Torment is seeing your child being picked on by the older kids at the playground. Torment is wondering whether you are doing everything you can and should be doing to make sure your kids turn out “alright.” Torment is knowing that no matter what you do as a parent, you cannot control everything your child does. On one hand, this is somewhat freeing. At some point, you will be able to let go of your child’s hand, and he or she will be able to cross the street safely without you. On the other hand, this is extremely frightening. Your child may be fully capable of crossing the street without you, but at the same time, a reckless driver could cause your child harm. If you would have been there with your child crossing the road, perhaps you could have done something to prevent your child from suffering harm. This is the type of torment I now endure. Thanks for the warning, mom. I totally understand what I put you through now.
The other night I read a news article about a young girl who had died. Reports suggest that she died of a drug overdose. She was only 17. From what I have read, she seemed like a talented and bright individual. This breaks my heart. This breaks my heart because I can’t even begin to imagine what her parents and family must be going through. This scares the hell out me. This scares the hell out of me because this young girl’s parents could not protect their daughter from everything. This is torment.
Yesterday’s daily prompt asked the WordPress community to share something about our reputations. At first, I wanted to ignore this writing prompt. I couldn’t think of anything interesting to say about my “reputation,” and then I began feeling a bit depressed when I realized I didn’t have an interesting reputation to discuss. But then I felt obligated to write a response to the prompt since I am participating in the Zero to Hero 30-Day Challenge. As I began to write something boring, I started to feel the torment.
I began to think about what sort of reputations my children will have 10 to 15 years from now. Then I began to think about what I can do better as a mom to raise responsible, intelligent, caring and independent beings I will not have to worry about once they no longer need me to hold their hands. And then I thought about the thousands of heartbreaking stories I have read about and seen on the news over the years. After these thoughts flooded my mind, I thought about earlier this evening when my son chose to wear a t-shirt and shorts for pajamas instead of a warm long-sleeve shirt and pants for pajamas. Instead of telling him that he needed to change into warmer pajamas on this cold evening, I quietly repeated to myself that I cannot and do not need to control everything. I was not giving up on being a parent in that moment; I was allowing my son to make a decision for himself that he could be proud of. He liked the pajamas he chose. And now he is sound asleep with a pile of blankets on top of him.
I cannot control everything my children do. I cannot make every decision for them. I can show them the importance of making responsible decisions. I can show them how to think for themselves. I can show them love, respect and courage. I can discipline them when it is necessary and tell them that although they may not understand at the moment, one day it will all make sense. And I will not say this in a condescending tone, I will say this with love in my heart, like my mother did. I will have to learn to trust them. I will have to learn to trust myself as a parent more. I will have to learn to live with the torment of being a mother to two children I love so deeply. Who knew motherhood could be so rewarding, yet so painful? Oh yeah, you knew, mom.
When I was younger, having a good reputation was important to me. I didn’t want people to think anything bad of me, and I wanted my mother to be proud of her daughter. But now that I look back and think about all of this, I don’t think my mom wanted me to have a good reputation for the sake of having a good reputation. I am certain that all she cared about was me, and not what others thought about me. I am certain that all she wanted was to see her daughters make responsible decisions and to treat others well. I am certain that all she wanted was to see her daughters be courageous even when being courageous wasn’t the popular thing to do. I am certain that all she wanted was to see her daughters make confident choices and to live happily. Yes, I have made mistakes, and I have certainly disappointed my mother on more than one occasion. But I have also learned from my mistakes. I have given my mother many reasons to be proud. And I have given myself many reasons to be proud of who I am.
I don’t care about living up to a certain type of reputation anymore. I care about making good choices for my family and for myself. I don’t want my children to think that they must live up to a certain type of reputation either. All I care about is that my children make the choices that are right for them. I want them to make choices that will create more happiness in their lives. I want them to be confident and proud of who they are. Yes, they will make mistakes. Yes, those mistakes will be painful for me to witness. But my children will also make me proud. They already make me proud.
My children will always be my babies. I will always pray for their safety and health. And I will always want a chance to hold their hands. But I will learn to relinquish control. I will learn to do a better job of leading by example. I will trust. I will learn. I am learning.
Motherhood, this is hard work. Thank you, mom, for showing me how it’s done.