So many parenting books, blogs & magazines make it sound as if, if you just do this or do that, all will be right with the world.
Your children will listen and behave perfectly.
They’ll pick up after themselves (consistently!), and your home will be a haven. Your kids will support one another, rather than argue, and boys will be models of modern masculinity.
That’s not how it works, folks. Real life is messy & chaotic, and there are no guarantees that what works for me and my boys will work for you and yours. Heck, I can’t even guarantee that what works today will work tomorrow.
And that’s OK. Parenting — living, even, when you think about it — is all about stepping forward and doing the best you can at any given moment in time with what you have. It’s a long game; you won’t see the end results of your parenting interventions for years and years and years, and in the meantime, it can look and feel as if you’re going backward rather than moving forward. It takes trial and error, missteps and multiple approaches to find your way through sometimes, and that’s OK too.
It can be hard, psychologically, to deal with the mess and uncertainty of real life. On one level, we want everything to be just so. We want to know that our kids get it, that they’re on the right track, that it will all turn out in the end.
I can’t give you those guarantees.
What I can give you is encouragement and empathy. And some snapshots from my perfectly imperfect life:
Yep, those are snowpants. Hanging from the (non-functioning) ceiling fan. They’ve been there two days. Why? Because it snowed a lot this weekend, and my 16-year-old took his brothers and a friend sledding. (Parents of younger kids, that was an AWESOME moment for me! My kids went sledding — with absolutely zero help from me! They found their winter clothes, got dressed independently, found & loaded up their own sleds and went all by themselves.) Of course, when they came home, their clothes were wet, so they hung them near our wood stove to dry. And time passed. The boys went to bed, then to school, then to their Dad’s house — and the pants remain.
Socks. Lots and lots of socks. On my dining room table. Which is pushed aside because that way, there’s more room to run and jump and practice back flips.
Laundry. On the kitchen table. Because the dining room table is loaded down with socks. Also because the 13-year-old did not — yet — take up his basket of laundry like I asked him to. It is sitting there, waiting for him to get home from basketball practice.
I was actually going for “elegant Christmas decorations” here. Instead, my decorations have been joined by a stick of deodorant, a broken trophy and some super glue. Care to guess the backstory behind this one?
I’m guessing that you’ve got some similar scenes in your home. I’m also guessing that you sometimes feel shameful or inadequate because you don’t have it all together, because you don’t have it all figured out.
The next time you feel that way, click back to this post. Or email me (firstname.lastname@example.org)– I can send you some right-that-moment pics of real life at my house. Remember, real life is messy & chaotic — and that’s OK.