As a mother of seven children I have learned a lot over the years. My oldest son is almost 25 years old and my youngest daughter is 6. When my oldest son was born I was only 21 years old. I am turning 46 this week! Age doesn’t bother me, but holy moly, I’m almost 50! How did that happen? In my head I’m still in my early 30’s. Does that count for anything? Anyone else stop aging internally?
It’s safe to say that who I am as a person has changed A LOT over the course of my 25 years of parenting life. In many ways, I have grown up right alongside my oldest son. My life experiences and exposures to the greater world around me has chipped off pieces of me and added others, resulting in the person I am today. Some of those chipping and adding experiences were more pleasant than others.
Last month a few of my home school mom friends and I got together for a “digital home school conference”. Meaning we went to a friends house and watched several video sessions, from various speakers in the home school community, who had spoken at a conference earlier in the year. One of the speakers made a statement that has left me reflecting. She said, “Don’t take parenting advice from someone who doesn’t have adult children.” There was only one other mom in the room who also had adult children. She and I happened to be sitting next to each other. We both instinctively turned to each other, started laughing, tears in our eyes and high fived!
What we both knew, without saying one word to each other, is that regardless of our efforts, in the end, our kids get to decide who they will become. The illusion of control is just that, an illusion. We both knew that we had made mistakes along the way, as all parents do. We had good days and we had bad days. We both had memories of apologizing to our children on days we got it wrong. We both had learned over the years that there is no one “right” way of doing things. Every child is different. Children in the same household, with the same parents, can be very very different! We both knew that who we are today is not who we were in those first years of parenting. And more importantly, all of this has affected how we were now parenting the children we still have in our homes.
I don’t think the speaker was saying that mom’s don’t need to swap ideas or share what has worked and what was a catastrophic failure. We need to! It’s good and it’s healthy to do just that. Many times it’s how we get new ideas to add to our own daily parenting. Heck, the speaker was at an event with moms in various seasons speaking on what had worked for them and what had not. There clearly is value in that.
I think the real message is that once your children hit adulthood you see it so very differently. You realize just how fast it goes. You realize some of the things you worried about that you didn’t need to worry about. You see areas that you should have put more energy and effort into that you may have missed. You see how something you did when your child was young, that may have even gotten a desired result at the time, in the end caused more harm then good.
Adult children are a very humbling thing. I have a 19 and a 24 year old. Both have given me honest feedback about their growing up years. Some good, some not so good. They also get to see me doing some things differently with their younger siblings than I did with them. Who I was when they were younger is not who I am now.
The biggest difference for me now is that I’m much more comfortable in my choices and decisions. I am also more comfortable switching it up or making a hard right and doing things completely differently if I don’t think it’s going well. I’m now perfectly okay doing things differently than the person standing next to me. As a result, I am more in tune with my children’s needs. And let me say, it’s freeing! I know that one small parenting failure won’t completely wreck my kids, heck one small failure daily won’t wreck them. It’s a journey not a test.
I used to worry about how my kids made me look. If they melted down in the grocery store what would people think of me? If they bombed the test or didn’t brush their teeth would I be seen as a “bad mom”? Or the other end of that pendulum…I liked the way THEIR achievements made ME feel. Like somehow that home run was mine to claim.
I think technology has made this even more challenging for us as moms. We see everyone’s highlight reel right there on our phones. We see our mom friends posting about their child’s accomplishments. They got first place! They aced the test! They made honor roll! They got the top reading award in the entire kinder class! And maybe your kindergartener isn’t reading yet. Not you? Oh right, it’s MY kindergartener who is not reading yet and guess what? I am totally okay with that! Had it been my oldest son, I would have been in a panic!
The dilemma is this, we need to be able to post a mom brag here and there. It shows our kids we celebrate them and it encourages us on the days where we feel like we are failing and want to throw in the towel. We also need to be able to celebrate alongside our fellow Mamas when their kids are doing well. Some days I need to hear I am a rock star mom from someone else! Don’t we all!!!
The key is being able to look at yourself through one lens and look at your kids through a complete separate lenses. It can be so hard to separate the two.
And here is why… They grow up! It seems like a given, I know. But what we don’t always think about, when we have a house full of littles, is this: the day WILL come when your adult child will make a decision you don’t agree with. They will fail at something. They will walk away from an opportunity you don’t think they should. They will take risks you personally wouldn’t take. They may choose a different college or career path than you saw for them all those years ago when you were pouring yourself into them. And if you are viewing them through the same lens you see yourself though, this will cause you so much anxiety! Trust me, I know from experience!
So being that I have adult children, you can take my advice. Obviously I am joking, but really…give yourself permission to just be YOU! Enjoy your kids and accept them as they are. Don’t feel pressure to live up to anybody else’s standard! Embrace it as it comes and enjoy the ride! It truly is such an adventure watching them grow into themselves. Be a positive force in their lives and remember it’s their journey not your test.
If I could tell my 20-something mothering self anything, it would be to relax and to enjoy it all. Don’t feel like you have to measure up. You don’t! You are the perfect mom for each of your children. It really is a gift to get to come along side your kids as they lay the foundation for their adult lives and become all that THEY desire to be.
And to my adult children, thank you for the grace you have extended to me as I have been learning right alongside you. I think you are both fantastic humans and I love you!