To add to complications you yourself are not perfect, something you are reminded of constantly as a parent. There are expectations you have for them that even you did not fulfill yourself! There are things you don’t really want to enforce but have to because it’s your job. Not wanting to be the bad guy or the hated personality you take on this role just for the sake of what you think may be better for the children.
There is no exact science, books are written parents talk about experiences, heck there are even seminars you can attend which teach you how to deal with this new role. But nothing can really prepare you for the daily challenges internal and external you will face. Nothing can prepare you for the love and overwhelming emotions you feel when you see them smile or cry. Nothing can prepare you for the way you feel when you punish them even against your own desire. Nothing can prepare you for any of this; even having this experience several times it is new every day.
Normal things you can master in one or two attempts, if you are slow it will take you three, but eventually you understand logically how to approach challenges. This challenge is something that constantly morphs, they are changing, they are growing you are also changing, yet one thing is constant, you are the guide, you are the one responsible, and so you have the stress to make this work.
It can be difficult from the most complex to the most simple situations. Last night I put the boys to bed, which in and of itself is like corralling a herd of unwilling mischievous and energetic creatures. There are routine things that need to get done like the bath, brushing, flossing (or they tell the dentist I don’t help them floss!) and changing into night suits, to the unscheduled challenges like breaking up a fight on who sat on the toilet first when both of them are pants around knees half sitting on it.
From all directions your energy gets drained, yet you have to maintain composure, you have to still have enough in your mind to come up with a bed time story that will satisfy them. After all the pushing, pulling, begging threatening and debating how many stuffed animals they will get to sleep with, finally they are both in bed. I make up fake animals and give them names which sound ridiculous, and make them do human like activities, and not just a simple story will do…it needs to be a full production with character development, a challenge, and then somehow overcoming that challenge by these characters. Oh it cannot be short either, if it’s too short it is met with “That’s it?” “That was too short” type heckles at the end.
After the story which uses every creative cell in my brain I breathe a sigh of relief 'whew all done'. I move the what seems like 20 stuffed animals they have in-between them and kiss them good night. Triumphant I walk away from their room to bury myself in some mindless TV and/or very mindful conversation with the wife (yes she reads this blog too). After about an hour and half as I am relaxing on the sofa browsing Netflix I hear some noises coming from the kids room. Immediately I think its 9:30pm and they are STILL awake. I get up and walk towards their room putting on my MAD Parent mindset, WHY ARE THEY AWAKE on a school night this late?
As I enter the room I see they have constructed a very impressive fortress. Using the comforters and the bunk bed they created a tent and pretty much blocked out all access to the outside except for a few small cracks between the pillows and the stuffed animals they are using as walls, light is shining into the dark room and then I see it go off as they realize I had opened the door. There is complete silence, I go over and look inside this makeshift ‘tent’ and see both of them, the older one has laid down and tightly closing his eyes and the younger one apparently forgot to lay down and is sitting up flashlight in hand with his eyes closed, as if that would fool me! For a second I think how awesome it is to be a kid, to enjoy this ‘tent’ and this game, they even had managed to find a flashlight from my office and sneak it in to their beds like contraband. I admired the creativity it took to create the tent, and how painstakingly difficult it must have been to do this all in stealth, knowing a parent could walk in anytime and ‘catch’ them doing something they were not supposed to do.
For those few seconds I want to be a kid, just like them. I wish I could join them and sit in their tent and tell stories and joke about something gross like ‘potty’ or ‘farts’. Then there is the parent side that turns on that tells me to make a lesson out of this, to make sure they understand that they must be in bed at a certain time or they will have a difficult time functioning in the morning. That parent wants to punish them to make sure that this never happens again. As I am wrestling these roles in my mind Ive found that there is no right way to respond. I am in a space where I cannot become that kid, nor can I become that parent, I don’t want to be either because both don’t fit my exact feeling. I am somewhere in-between, I want to teach them not to do this during bed time, but I also want them to be children to have these exciting moments and to not stifle their creative spirit, that is in essence the truest challenge for every parent.
It is not that we don’t want to do our job, or know how to do it, it is balancing that job with some reason and logic which provides a positive landscape for developing minds. Every parent has the same dilemma how to make a human who is better than themselves, who does not have the same weaknesses, or insecurities. So we hide ours, we try to be or act like that person that we want our children to be yet in this act the kids just see our hypocrisy as we all did with our parents. We saw stubbornness, and lack of reason, or ability to enjoy life. With these thoughts I’ve come to a conclusion or somewhat of a defeat, you have three kids and you realize there is only so much one can do. I don’t want to create a better versions of myself anymore in them, I just want them to a better version of themselves. There is not much I can do besides provide unconditional love, I can guide but I cannot drive. I can nudge but I cannot force, nothing positive will come out of something negative. Of course there are moments I remember this, and there are many more moments that I forget!
So with these thoughts instead of BLASTING them for defying their bed time, being sneaky rascals and creating mischief when they should have been asleep, using an LED flashlight that could BLIND them if they look into it. I calmly took down the comforter they were using as the tent and said, this is an awesome tent, it’s actually the RIGHT tent, just at the wrong time.
Being a parent is easy, but being the right parent, at the right time, is probably the most difficult thing in the world.