Wouldn't it be nice if there was an operator's manual for parenting? Or maybe being issued a magic wand when we are handed the child... Isn't that a magnificent idea?
Several of my co-workers are young women with young families. I listen to them talking about the hurdles they are facing and count my lucky stars that I'm not in that stage of life now. Oh, don't get me wrong, I'm empathetic because I haven't forgotten how it feels to just wish the children would sleep through the night a couple of nights in a row so that I could. Then, we went through the phase where I just wished everybody could get their own drink and use the potty - and I could use the potty without somebody following me in there or even standing outside the door asking me a question.
I remember how exhausting it was to take this child to practice and the other child to some sort of lesson and get dinner in them and be sure they had homework and somehow fit laundry, vacuuming, and dish washing in, too. Plus, there was also the grocery shopping and getting the oil changed and having a gift for the birthday party on Saturday. There was also that phase where I just wished we could get through six months without somebody having a cast and needing physical therapy. Then, there was the worry about their driving skills and the traffic they would be dodging or was the young person they were going to the movie with a safe driver?
Then came the questions about who this was they were spending so much time with and what kind of background did they come from? What were their people like? Why couldn't we ask for a resume' from those folks the children were choosing as dates?
Next, I was asking, "Don't you think you all are a bit young for that? Why don't you wait six months and see if you feel the same way about him/her?" (Truthfully, there were really more times when I thought, 'Gosh I hope they don't mess this up because I really like this one!)
Somehow they survived and grew up in spite of me and my lack of an operator's manual to guide my parenting skills. They are out on their own and making their way in the world now. I stand in the hallway or sit at the community lunch table and listen to my co-workers hoping that tonight will be the second consecutive night that their little one sleeps for a six-hour stretch or sharing their schedule of practice on Monday, lessons on Tuesday, church on Wednesday, school play on Thursday, sleep-over birthday party on Friday, and Saturday ballgames. So often I want to tell them that someday that will all look easy. I want to encourage them to cherish this phase because a more challenging one is on the horizon. I want to let them know that I understand that what they are weathering through seems like it is taking a toll on their lives and wearing them down. Yet, these hurdles they are clearing are managable still. I pause and wonder how I survived all that and give thanks that I'm not living it right now.
Then, I have a conversation with one of my children and they tell me of their grown up hurdles. Jobs being phased out within a few months, graduate classes, job interviews and the prospects of relocating, dealing with their own parenting hurdles, all of these things they are dealing with now that require so much more than just a nap or a bandaid.
It makes me appreciate my own parents so much more. Knowing how my folks have faced and overcome their hurdles and stood by me while I overcame my own gives me inspiration. It would be so nice to have an operator's manual or a magic wand, though, wouldn't it?