I can’t say I go out of my way to keep my personal views out of this blog. It’s just not nice to lie like that. But I have noticed in the past few months that I’ve been leaning more heavily toward facts than personal experiences. That’s not what I started this blog for, and it took me a little while to put my finger on what the heck was going on.
Quite simply, I’m figuring out that I’m way overdue to figure out how to be a parent.
When my kids were younger, being a parent was actually pretty easy. Feed them, change them. Teach them to use a fork and a spoon and walk them through their ABC’s. Take them to the playground, and remember to take time to go jump in a mud puddle every now and then.
Then School and Expectations Rear Their Ugly Heads
Mr. A will be 11 in April. Princess C is turning 9 in less than two months, and G-money is exploring the wide, wonderful world of being 6. And I’m realizing that somewhere along the way, I stumbled. I tripped. I was so busy trying to be a good parent to three school-age kids that I forgot what it meant to be a parent.
Homework gets done. My first grader read his first chapter book the other day, and he’s starting in on his second. My fifth grader just tested at the 11th grade reading level.
11th grade, people. We took a time-out to celebrate that night.
The kids are in dance and tae kwon do. They take swim lessons and have their friends over on the weekends. I’m conscious of how much junk food they eat, how much time they spend playing video games and how much smack I let them talk before I remind them that if it’s not nice, and it’s not necessary, it really doesn’t need to come out of their mouths.
But I can’t remember the last time we went outside to dance in the rain. Or busted out the fingerpaints. Or built a tower out of cards on the kitchen table.
It’s not that we’re too busy, although it feels that way sometimes. Sure, our nights are full, but there’s always time for one more story. One more laugh. One more hug. It’s just that somewhere along the way, I got busy being responsible.
Ugh. That word sends a shiver down my spine.
It’s true though. When I have free time at night, it usually ends up being laundry time or dishes time or pick-up-themess-in-my-living-room-that-never-stops-breeding time. Bed time is bed time. Dinner time is dinner time. Somewhere along the way, I got so busy “doing” that I forgot living isn’t about how clean your dishes are. And no matter what my neighbors think, it’s not about the last time I mowed my grass either.
It’s about the number of hugs in a day. It’s staying up late to watch a movie with your kids. It’s letting homework wait an extra half hour so you can go to the park. Eating cereal for dinner so you have time for that second game of UNO. And a third.
At the dinner table last night, we were talking about where the kids wanted to live when they grew up. And G-money crawled right up in my lap and cried because he didn’t want to stop living with me.
It was a kick in the pants, because that stage isn’t going to last forever. By the time he’s 18, he’s going to be foaming at the mouth to live someplace where mom and dad aren’t. And right now, I’m wasting these sweet, precious years worrying about how clean my house is or whether or not the kids have clean pants to wear.
My Promise to My Kids
So today, I’m doing something bold. Something daring. I’m giving up on being a responsible parent and focusing on being the parent that my kids need me to be. If that means washing a load of laundry at 6 in the morning so the kids have clean clothes, or doing dishes before dinner just to have a plate to eat on, or stepping on toys because it doesn’t happen to be Sunday, then that’s what it means. I don’t want to look back on these years and realize I’ve been so worried about being a responsible parent I forgot to take the time to be a good one.
I’m also requiring 48 hours notice if you want my house to be clean when you come to visit. Otherwise, you take what you get. Consider yourself warned.