Thursday, May 13, 2010

It Takes Time to Raise a Child

I am a slow learner. Not in the educational sense, but in the school of life sense. It seems to take me quite a bit of time to learn life lessons that I thought I already knew. Funny to think back now at how smart I thought I was at 20 and even at 30. I was just a baby and I thought I was all grown up. Silly me. Some people may actually be as smart as they think they are at 20 and 30, but I have learned so much about life, myself and human nature in the fifteen years since I turned 30 that I wonder how I ever managed to keep a job, live on my own, get married and sustain any relationships during those years.

Maybe it took me a while to learn some of these lesson because I delayed having children until I was 30. Having children teaches us so many things, the list is too long to cover everything I in a short blog, so I will save some of that for another time, but suffice to say, I am not the same person I was before I had my children. They have forced me to confront so many issues that I had no desire to deal with. They have made me a better person, but I am not finished yet. I am still a work in progress.

Growing up all I ever wanted was to be was a mom. It was my deepest desire and longing. Blessedly, I was able to see that dream come true four-fold. These four people are the most important people I will ever form relationships with. I have been fortunate in that I am able to be a stay at home mom. Although my children don't fully understand the benefit of having me around all the time; in time they will. Motherhood is a serious exercise in delayed gratification. The things that we do for our children from giving birth to breastfeeding to taxiing them from activity to activity are all things that, although rewarding in a sense, we will only see the full benefits that grow out of those things at some later date. Yes, patience and delayed gratification are definitely life lessons we learn as moms. Whether we thought we needed a course in these subjects doesn't matter, we receive the lessons nonetheless.

At no time in my children's lives up until now have I known without a doubt that mothering is not for the faint of heart. Admittedly, those first years as a mom, when I was birthing a baby a year for four years were hard. They were exhausting and draining, but those years pale in comparison to what I am experiencing now - ten years down the road. At 15, 14. 12-½ and 10-½, to say that mothering them is a challenge is an understatement. It is hard. It will take all of everything I am and everything I have knowledge of to get me through these next few years.

Gone are the days when all four of them followed behind me like baby ducks following after their mom. They no longer hide behind my skirts and look to me for constant reassurance. No, they are stepping out on their own in four different directions. Now I am the one following behind them, anxiously looking to them for a sign or reassurance that they know what they are doing - ready to step in if they need me, but staying safely behind the line they have drawn in the sand. It is so important that they learn how to handle their own business, and yet I am still their mommy in my mind. I want to be the one to kiss the boo-boo and make life all sunshiney again, but that's not my role any more. I haven't graduated to spectator, but I am no longer the orchestrator either, it is difficult to define the role of mom to teens and tweens. Advocate for sure. Director at times, adviser other times, but always, always Mom. Mom should always be available to our kids, no matter what age. Mom should consistently be a soft place for any child to fall. This is a lesson I am in the midst of learning.

My two oldest boys (14 and 12-½) are teaching me this lesson, to be more flexible and driving home to me the reason for my being a mom in the first place - to be that soft place, the one person my child can always count on for nurturing and understanding. I wish I could say that I quickly learned this lesson as soon as my boys started to pull away from me. I wish I could say that I haven't gotten my feelings hurt and traded barbs with them when they have told me they didn't want to be seen with me. I would be lying if I said that, though, and lying never got anyone anywhere. I haven't always been patient, understanding and nurturing mom. In an effort to get them to appreciate and respect me more, I have pushed them back as hard as they have pushed me and in the process I have pushed them even farther away and given them reason to respect me less. Boy, do I regret that. It's time for a paradigm shift, I can't keep going on with this same set of reactions.

All of my children deserve the best mom in the world. Unfortunately for them, they are stuck with me. However, horrible as I may be at times, I am teachable. I know how to admit when I have made a mistake and pull from that mistake some valuable lessons. I think I have managed to learn this lesson in a timely manner. It is in no way too late to forge ahead and make my relationship with my children (especially these two boys) better. Again, I will have to follow their lead and be there for them when they need me and back off when they don't. I will be empathetic instead of reactionary when they don't want me around. I can't let my ego be hurt by a normal childhood response to mom's presence. I have to be a mother and not a smotherer. They need that. They deserve that.

Yes, delayed gratification is the overriding and most on-going theme of motherhood. I just hope I live long enough to reap all the rewards!