I’ll tell you what. This parenting thing? They should make you get a license for this sh-t. I am not kidding.
Let’s pretend for a moment, that you only did the bare minimum, and you focused on keeping your children bathed, fed, and in clothing. Even that takes thought…what will the temperature be today? Will they need jackets for the bus stop in the morning? Do they have gym or music today? Will they need tennies? Are there any special things happening today (i.e. going outside with the naturalist, Fun Run, science experiments) and what does that mean for their wardrobe (i.e. rain boots, tennies, hats and mittens, clothes that can get completely effed up without care)?
Now throw into the mix homework, and spelling, and the obligatory 15 minutes of reading a day, and the paperwork (I’m absolutely sure that my little girls’ elementary school alone is to blame for the alarming deforestation going on these days)…OH the paperwork that needs to be sifted through, read, signed, returned, etc.
If that’s not enough to think about, how about a few activities to make sure the kids have the opportunity to try sports/music/etc. Hockey (what girl doesn’t play hockey these days?), and gymnastics (they have to try that!), and dance (God help me), and golf (every girl should learn to golf), and swim lessons (so they don’t drown at the pool), and what about piano lessons, and Girl Scouts, and all of the things that made my childhood so fun???
But then, aside from all of that, what about the life lessons that shape and mold little girls into confident, and bright, and kind, and gentle, and strong, and independent, and amazing women. What about THAT?! Do you see what I’m saying here? Minds that were once filled with the woes of the world, work, living the single life, drinking cocktails, and shopping for shoes and cute outfits are suddenly filled with all of the above. It’s no wonder some women turn a little crazy. It’s hard to manage all of this and feel sane.
For fun, though, let’s add one more layer to complicate matters. Try keeping all of the above straight, and moving in the right direction, when you only have your children half the time. HALF the time. Sometimes it feels like the combination of the cards our little girls have been dealt in their short little lives, and growing up in two very different households, and facing what all children do as they go to school and daycare for the majority of each day, is like climbing Mount Everest simply in an effort for them to grow-up normal. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again…sometimes it’s enough to have me breathing in a paper bag.
Now…onto the topic at hand…
One of my favorite things about children is their inability to disguise how they feel about things. They are direct, honest, and straight-up tell you what they want. There is no trying to decipher what they are thinking…it’s evident. I love that. I was raised by a woman who is strong, confident, and articulates what she wants, what she needs, her happiness or dismay, and her opinions. I grew up valuing and, thankfully, having the ability to verbalize how I feel.
When I got to high school and started meeting/befriending/dating people who were passive or passive-aggressive (eeek!!!) I realized I didn’t really know what to do with them. I don’t want to have to work to understand what you are or are not telling me…just TELL ME. I don’t want to have to guess what you want or don’t want. And please don’t talk in circles to try to get ME to say what YOU don’t want to. Ugh! I don’t have the energy!
So a couple of months ago when my littlest little girl stopped being the direct little girl that I knew her to be, and started saying things like “remember when we used to get ice cream? That was fun.” Instead of “LET’S GO GET ICE CREAM!!!” I was a little concerned.
Despite my having grown-up to be vocal and communicative, there was a time when I simply wasn’t either. There were a couple of years in which, if betting on whether we’d stay married or get divorced, both my husband and I would have likely put our money on divorce. During that time I became a relatively passive woman. At the time it felt like any unnecessary rocking of the boat would land us in divorce court, so battles were chosen carefully, and most things hardly seemed worth discussing. Only the really big stuff felt worth the hassle. I sometimes wondered if I was saving my marriage or destroying myself.
I cringe when I think about how many nights we had this conversation:
Husband: What do you want to do tonight?
Me: What do YOU want to do tonight?
Husband. We’re doing what you want tonight. Decide.
Me: I really don’t care.
Me: But what do YOU want to do?
Now, nearly a year and a half on the other side, I’m back to my vocal and direct self. But my littlest little girl seems to be taking-on my old passive behavior. And it scares the sh-t out of me.
When I noticed her doing it, we started talking about it a lot. My little girls and I have what feel like life altering conversations in the car. We talk about how we should treat people, what it means to be kind, and how to be strong and vocal about things that we do or do not like. I started talking with them about simply asking for what they want and need. And how it’s so important to me that they feel comfortable enough to ask for, and talk about, anything.
This past week I’ve had a few interactions with grown women who simply can’t ask for what they want. Passive, and passive-aggressive women who it seems, don’t have the strength or confidence or something to just spit out what they really want to say. And it is crazy-making. CRAZY. MAKING. It has made me even more aware of how important it is for my little girls to grow-up with confidence and the ability to clearly, and honestly, verbalize and communicate what they are thinking.
Ugh…do you see what I’m saying? This parenting thing isn’t for the faint at heart. It is ball-busting, back-breaking, mind-blowing, emotionally draining work. And if we’re lucky…fingers and toes crossed and daily pleading with God…it will all work out the way we parents hope it will. Without us being put into straight jackets.
TODAY: What if I continue to do everything in my power to help these little girls know their worth, speak their minds, and grow-up to be confident and strong women who can verbalize what they are thinking without fear.