If I’d only known in the early 1990s what I know today… I’d have been a good deal more hesitant, had a few more sleepless nights, worried that my husband and I weren’t up to the task… that our different approaches to parenting would tear us apart. Now there’s no time for that — we’re in this, 3 kids deep, for better or worse.
It’s just that no one tells prospective parents that beyond the softer skills — love and patience and humor, raising a child will call for innards of hard, unyielding steel. That’s right, steel.
You see, as a parent you’ll be taken out of your comfort zone many, many times. Whether it’s handling a screaming infant in a public place, facing down a toddler’s noisy, ill timed temper tantrum, chaperoning field trips of energetic grade school kids, hosting noisy birthday parties, coaching a team… once you’re a parent you will be doing things you never, EVER imagined you’d do in your pre-children days. What’s more, you won’t really mind.
Because in truth, you’ll do anything for your children.
Those steel innards will come in especially handy if your child falls anywhere outside “normal” at any stage. Being that a parent’s love is blind to fault and denial is a stubborn emotion, often others in your life will notice something is amiss before you do; and if you’re unlucky (or lucky depending on your prospective) enough to know a few outspoken souls, you’ll be getting all the well intentioned advice you can handle.
The challenge is to keep from throttling the (well meaning) advice giver for daring to voice such a grievous insult to your precious child. A good set of steel innards allow you to listen without offense, hurt or parent guilt, to fix a smile on your face, offer a genuine show of gratitude for their concern and promise to think carefully about what’s been said.
Later, whenever you do your best thinking (for me it’s in the shower or while doing a sinkful of dishes) consider what’s you’ve been told, and how many times you’ve heard something similar. Separate opinion and generational differences from facts that can be observed. If you truly can’t shut off your emotions, pretend the child involved isn’t your own and that the advice comes from an interested, though otherwise uninvolved, adult. Taking the emotion out is more work for some than others, but essential so that you can be more objective, to move forward with purpose toward what’s best for your child.
As you might imagine, this is no easy feat… hence the wish for parents to be gifted with stronger insides. Still, you owe it to your child, as I did to mine, to stop making excuses, looking for reasons or looking the other way. You are your child’s only advocate, and “normal” or not, they need you.
So toughen up, it’s not all about you — it IS all about them.