When I was pregnant for the first time, I mused aloud to my cousins that I kind of felt sorry for my future offspring. I had a feeling, I said, that I’d be pretty strict, and I knew my husband, Robert, though very loving, is no pushover (he is half German, after all). “I imagine I’m going to be like my mom,” I said. Before she could stop the words from coming out of her mouth, my cousin Julia said, “But Aunt Carol was so mean!”
Aunt Carol is my mom, and yes, she was strict. Not authoritarian; her rules weren’t arbitrary. The woman ran a house, not a Dickens-era orphanage. But she wasn’t namby-pamby. She wasn’t a floor-player. I know why she was like this, now that I’m a mother. It was in part to retain her sense of self, and in part to stay true to her goal of raising self-sufficient, independent, resourceful children. She may have worn an apron, but there was no way us kids were getting hold of those strings.
So here I am, the mother of two sons, 6 year old Daniel and 4 year old James. I kiss them incessantly (James has recently called a moratorium on kisses, so I have to sneak them when he’s sleeping or catch him when he can’t squirm away, such as when he’s buckled in his carseat), and hug them constantly. I ruffle their hair, call them handsome (they are) and tell them I love them multiple times a day.
They get their fill of physical coddling, but they don’t get emotional coddling.
I don’t cut up their food into teeny tiny pieces, I don’t do their homework for them. I hold their hands in parking lots and when crossing the street, but then let them run ahead.
I went into parenting presuming it would be hard and joyful in equal measure. I was right. But I do believe it’s true that to extend the joy through a lifetime, you have keep doing the hard stuff.
What do you think is hardest about parenting? I’d love to hear what you think. And just in case you were wondering: Aunt Carol is a fabulous grandmother.