You’re a parent. You care about your kids. Well, let me qualify that. Every parent cares about his or her kids, but you care about the effect you are having on your children. You think about what they eat, how much they sleep, if they get their homework done, how to get your child to care about getting his or her homework done, and you care about not just what you say to help your child down this path of growing up, but how you say it.
You feel it, don’t you. That weight. That weight on your shoulders, on your mind, on your eyelids, of the overwhelming responsibility that is in your hands: responsible parenting.
The pressure brought on from responsible parenting is great. At least to me it is. I’ve always marveled at those parents — usually mothers — who, at least on the surface, appear to be wired for parenting. They relish every moment: from the wondrous to the exasperating.
For me I struggle every day with reminding myself to enjoy these fleeting moments. Our oldest is now 12 years-old. Old enough that grammatically I can correctly write his age using digits, and not bother writing it out with letters. Ten years ago this moment seemed like a lifetime ago. Middle school? Those were old(er) kids.
But today the days of his walking around pretending to be the Red (Power) Ranger seem like yesterday. I know, that’s so cliché, but it’s true. Seeing time racing past does not take much imagination to know that college graduation for our first is only a few relative heartbeats along in the future.
Compounding these moments of melancholy and fatigue is that he is a good kid. We’ve had some pre-teen issues to deal with during this first year in Middle School — exacerbated by being his first year in a new school district — but they’ve been relatively easy to deal with.
My mother would say “bigger kids, bigger problems,” which has been true, but I also remember the words of a couple my wife and I befriended a few years before we had our own children. This couple had a young daughter who was three years old. Three is an interesting age, whether you have your own kids or not. Three is a better age to deal with (at times) when the children can go home to their parents. Watching this little girl, the couple could see the panic on our faces; we had told them that we were thinking about having kids and this was radically changing our perceptions.
The mother said, “They don’t come out this way. You grow the same way they grow. That’s the great thing about being a parent, you both get to grow together, and by the time they get older, you’re able to adjust to the new challenges.”
While I can be arrogant about some things, I’m not naive, or short-sighted enough to think that all kids are as manageable as my kids have been. In the psychological soup defined as nature and nurture, however, I’d like to think that my over-thinking the parenting process over the past decade has had some effect on the nurture side of the equation.
Which leads me back to the weight of parenting. Regardless of how easy things are now, I also know my wife and I are in the bread-basket of easy parenting: at least when it comes to boys. Twelve year-old boys are easy.
I guess I’m just waiting for the wheels to come off the bus, and wondering how I’m going to deal with that.
But before taking that thought any farther, I stop, and remember that I too am growing with my sons, and in the same way we were able to negotiate the entrance to Middle School, I trust we will be able to negotiate any future turbulent waters.
And while that realization allows me to soldier on, it doesn’t do anything to lift the weight I feel from parenting.