Family Practice: Move over, Steve MartinWritten by Shannon Szyperski | | firstname.lastname@example.org
I’m less than two months away from earning my “10 Years of Motherhood” pin. Technically, I think I probably earned it five or six months ago considering it’s been about 10 and a half years since I started with my first bout of morning sickness. Nonetheless, my oldest is about to turn a decade old and my motherhood will officially do the same.
As this monumental milestone inches closer and closer to reality, I suspect I’ll struggle to grasp and accept its weight in more ways than one. I’m counting on fits of denial, phantom ticks of my biological clock seeming to beg for one more baby and two to four middle-of-the-night, where-has-the-time-gone panic attacks. Perhaps because we are just so busy on a daily basis or perhaps because the fits of denial have already begun, what should be a wicked tugging of the ol’ maternal heartstrings has so far manifested itself in a completely different way. As I soak up my three wonderful children each day, all I can seem to think of is, “I can’t believe I have been having to repeat the same thing over and over for almost ten years now!”
That’s right. I have been spouting off the same motherly instructions for 10 long years, many to no avail. “Brush your teeth.” “Put that away.” “Please eat something.” “Turn the TV off.” “Say ‘thank you.’” “That’s enough.” “Put your clothes back on right now.” Over and over and over again.
My inability to get through to my fairly good children after reiterating the same simple commands repeatedly every day for nearly a decade makes me realize that not everything is our fault as parents and that children aren’t necessarily steered into compliance by suggestions from parenting magazines. I’ve spent years, nay, nearly a decade working tirelessly to mold my children to the best of their abilities and I have yet to feel triumphant enough to take a victory lap or two.
Despite my best efforts (make that 80 percent or so of my best effort or so), we’re still combating messy rooms, nose picking, picky eating, food all over the house, inappropriate attire, writing on furniture, homework refusal, bathing refusal, bedtime refusal, most every other kind of refusal, forgotten toilet flushes, sibling rivalry, hitting, yelling, and the all-time classic, talking back. Every. Single. Day. I’m exhausted just thinking about it.
Fortunately, the years of experience have not left me completely without beneficial parenting skills, as I can name your toddler’s ailment in four symptoms or less and change a diaper with my eyes closed. Still, I can’t help but wonder at what point I’m finally going to get good at this. My bossy 9-year-old, school-hating 7-year-old and TV-addicted 3-year-old don’t quite move me to pat myself on the back for a job well done.
And then I remember a story a friend once told me. He spoke of how when, pre-children, he groaned at some friends with children for not being available enough and canceling plans at the last minute. “What jerks,” he thought. Upon having his own children and partaking in the 24-hour-a-day, 365-day-a-year state of responsibility that is parenthood, however, he had an epiphany. “All of a sudden I realized,” he confessed, “that all of those years I was the jerk.”
Between his declaration and my ongoing realization that my kids aren’t and will likely never be parenting-magazine perfect, I’ve decided that much of raising children has to do with simply acknowledging what a jerk you’ve been most of the years prior. Even though I knew kids like the back of my hand before I even had my own, deep down I still had the notion that many a parent was doing it wrong.
Growing up, you think your own parents are doing it all wrong and then throughout young adulthood you can barely see children out in public without contemplating how superior your parenting skills are going to be to their parents’ skills. “My children will never be like that,” you oh-so-foolishly gloat.
Yet, here I stand, 10 years into the parenting gig and, despite both encouraging good choices and setting good examples, I can’t even get my kids to wear coats in the wintertime. That “10 Years of Motherhood” pin is no doubt going to be a reminder of how little I have it all figured out rather than a badge of wisdom. In the wise words of Michael Franti, “The more I see the less I know.”
Shannon Szyperski and her husband, Michael, are raising three children in Sylvania. Email her at email@example.com.