I’ve been thinking a lot about parenting.
I’ve been thinking a lot about raising the two children under my own roof to adulthood and what all that means. The steps to take, the words to choose, the lessons to impart. And while I’ve managed to get them to nearly seven- and nine-years-old relatively unscathed, I’m looking forward at the long journey still ahead of us and thinking, “This is too much. This is too hard. I’m going to screw this up.”
Maybe it’s because I arrive at the boys’ elementary school in the afternoon, park my car, and watch the middle school kids trickle down the hill. They’re awesome and awkward all in the same breath. I see myself in some of the girls, their long hair obstructing their view and their back-in-style knock-off Doc Martens clomping down the sidewalk. I smile and think of how awful middle school was; how I survived despite being myself.
But it’s the boys that catch me most off guard. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes, puberty doing what puberty does—wreaking havoc, causing confusion and delay. I try to guess their ages, guess anything about them: what they like to do, who they might be, how they treat others. I see them interact with one another, talking with their hands and waving goodbye as they separate at the bottom of the hill. I see them talking on their phones and wonder who in their life is so important that it warrants a call before three o’clock in the afternoon; I silently hope it’s their moms.
I look at them and can’t quite fathom BigBrother being one of these kids in three years, of LittleBrother following two years behind.
All of my friends with tweens and teens parent girls, not boys. I don’t quite know what to expect or whether BigBrother will eventually stop talking (though this is very, very hard to imagine) or if I will become Enemy Number One like some mothers and daughters. Do I get to remain their favorite for awhile? Will they become sullen and silent, like we’re told boys become, or will they remain themselves as I know them now, chatty and full of exuberance for all things, everyday? Will they hate spending time with me, with us? Will they hole up in their rooms? Will they get mouthy and full of attitude like I did, or will they just shrug and walk away?
Those currently unanswerable questions aside, I just don’t understand how I’m supposed to teach them everything they’re supposed to learn, how I’m in charge of this Very Big Job. I don’t feel qualified. In fact, most days when I’m trying to manage the load of life in general, I feel vastly underqualified for the job of raising capable adults. When I get frustrated and raise my voice, when my ears get tired from the constant talking, when I can’t think of one more answer to one more question, when I just want five minutes to myself.
I worry a lot about the mistakes, those moments when I don’t say what I need to say or say something completely wrong or, maybe worse, don’t say anything at all. Will that be the moment that they remember? Will that be the moment that outshines all others? Will they forget the good things in place of all of my many faults? Will they know, without a doubt, that they are not only loved but liked? Will they know that I don’t just love them because I’m required to love them as their parent, that I really, truly like them for who they are? Will they know it’s okay to make mistakes and tell us about them?
Why yes, my anxious brain is doing a lot of over-thinking on this subject! How did you know?
I logically know this line of thinking isn’t productive, it doesn’t solve problems or answer questions. Logic and anxiety and wanting the best for your kids don’t always go together, don’t always play by the rules. I’m just overcome as of late with the weight of it all. More than fearing a random virus or accident or anything else, I fear that they won’t know how much I love them, how I’d move mountains every single day to ensure they knew my love. I’m afraid I’m already mucking it up.
I hope they know now, that they know later. They know, right? They’ll remember, right? Of course. Sure. Right.