The Art of Raising Grown Ups

Recently I wrote a blog about “Raising Adults”. The idea is that we’re not just raising kids, we are raising young people to become strong and functional adults. When you realize that every decision you make could potentially shape the life of a future generation, that’s a lot of pressure that you put on yourself. Why do I take this approach? Because I’m a realist. I know that being a parent is a hefty job that carries a lot of responsibility. If you teach your kids that they don’t have to do anything and that life is going to just be sunshine and rainbows for the rest of their life, they won’t necessarily grow up ready for the world. Instead, I try to balance childish whimsy and reality to ensure that my children won’t contribute to that culture of “entitlement”.

It’s a rough and thankless job. Other people will always judge you on your worst parenting day. Your kid just threw himself down in the middle of the candy aisle because you had the audacity to say “no” to them? You get those looks. Sometimes they are looks of sympathy, of “we’ve been there bro”. But most of the time they are looks of “can’t you just give him what he wants?” and you put yourself in a dilemma. Do you give in to the terrorist’s demands or do you stand your ground? My gut always tells me to stand my ground. And I do.

Does your kid still have accidents? How is he not potty trained yet? Why does he still sleep in your bed? Why do we even have to answer these questions? Yes, boys are prone to have accidents for later in life than girls do. Yes, my boys were late potty trainers. I felt as though they shouldn’t be forced into it, rather nudged along at their pace until they were ready. Does that mean that I’ve failed as a parent? Yes, my child still ends up spending half the night in our bed and he’s 6. You can only fight so much before your body is too exhausted to care.

Those are the things I get judged on. I don’t get applauded because my oldest is a talented athlete and high honor student. I get judged because I have expectations that he does chores and does decently in school. I don’t ask for A’s. I ask for his best. I don’t get applauded because my youngest is the sweetest child who is adored by the moms and everyone else who meets him. I get judged because he’s a little on the wild side and prone to anxiety attacks. They perceive a failure on my behalf and they pounce on it. Moms are an especially easy target because we already doubt ourselves on a regular basis. We’ve convinced ourselves that we’ve failed miserably every day before we’ve even had our coffee. (Then we know we have afterwards.)

Instead of telling other moms about how every decision they have made failed their child, remember that every child is different. Not everyone has a child that comes with the perfect manual. We have to raise each of our children differently based on who they are. You think that just because you have 2 kids, you already know everything. But you don’t. They are each their own person, with very different personalities and challenges. I couldn’t take the same approach to raising my youngest as I did my oldest. That would be irresponsible. It wouldn’t work. What you need to do is find something that works for you. What helps you teach a specific set of morals and work ethic to your children. You can use 2 different approaches and still end up with a same result. The reason is because you adjusted your game plan.

It’s easy as parents to just think that you have to go at this one way. But you don’t. Being a good parent is about adjusting with the challenges until you find something that works. If you stick with it and keep your head held high, you can do it. You’re not failing. You’re trying. And that’s better than a lot of kids get.

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Growing Up

A conversation happened where I said “well, if my husband doesn’t put the cube storage together soon I’m just going to do it.” I received a response that I found to be a little bit shocking: “But, you’re a girl. You’re not supposed to do that.” Well, I’m not supposed to do a lot of things I guess but I end up doing what I want anyways.

I was very fortunate growing up. Sure, I was taught all of the “girl things” that I was supposed to learn. I can hem and patch clothing, I can do embroidery. I have a great eye for color and design. I’m also a pretty awesome cook. I say this because people actually genuinely enjoy my food so I use that as evidence of that. I love doing laundry and the only stain I have not been able to defeat was a marker that I sat on. I was able to get both blood and fruit juice off of a white shirt, so I’ll take that win. I may not be the best housekeeper, but we’re not at hoarder level of disaster. I am only human, of course.

However, I was also taught to do most of the things my brothers were taught to do. I may not be able to mow a lawn but I am pretty confident that between YouTube and common sense that is something I could easily figure out. My dad never once said the phrase “you’re a girl, you’re not supposed to do that.” In fact, I have always been convinced that my father wanted to teach me a lot of those “man things” because he did not want me to be stuck with someone forever because I needed someone to take care of me. So he taught me all about tools, what to use them for. He let me help and showed me how to do things around the house from what he could do. Yes, I even learned how to change out sockets myself but I’m too clumsy to even want to attempt it.

So the idea of “you’re a girl” was never something I have ever considered. I let my son play “daddy” with his stuffed animals and both of them cook with me in the kitchen. As soon as my oldest son was able to carry a laundry basket, I taught him to do his own laundry. Why? Because I will be damned if he’s 32 and single and I’m still doing this stuff for him. Also, why should his wife be his slave? Why can’t he pitch in around the house? If I had a girl, I would expect her to learn all of the same things I did: everything I could about everything. We should be teaching our girls independence and strength. We should not be training them to just be one thing. She can be a housewife and stay-at-home mom if she wants to but she can also be a badass that puts together a bookshelf so she doesn’t have to call her dad or wait for her husband to get home.

The same applies to our boys. We should be raising them to be independent and kind individuals that can do the same things girls do. There is no reason why they shouldn’t be able to do all of the things girls are traditionally supposed to do. Why can’t a man patch his own clothing or cook a meal for his family?

We are the ones responsible for raising the next generation and its our job to ensure that this generation is better than the ones in the past. They need to be raised to work hard, do amazing things, and be themselves without worrying about what society tells them they should be. They need to be taught to be kind to their neighbors, whether they are poor, of a different race/religion/sexual orientation, or if they are rude to them. (Because fueling unkindness with more unkindness never gets you anywhere). If we don’t, we fail the future.