Slice of Life #2 - Parenting Books - Ten Years Later

Today my girls, dolls in tow, were looking for parenting books.  "It's not easy raising kids these days,"  they told me, giggling as they pulled my stash from the deep living room shelves.  "Did you really read all these?" they wanted to know, gazing from Raising Adopted Children to Adopting on Your Own:  The Complete Guide to Adoption for Single Parents.

"Yes, once upon a time, I did," I answered, thinking back to those hopeful days when I wondered if I'd ever become a mom.  Ten years and three kids later, I am living the dream, and then some.

Reading all those books before my kids came, I approached the idea of parenting kind of like a new teacher planning a lesson for school.  You read up, prepare, and plan the lesson.  I'd simply educate myself and it would be smooth sailing.  Somebody, however, forgot to tell my kids this.   From personality, outfits, and bedroom decor to classes, sports, friends and activities, I've realized that the biggest lesson of parenting is that it's not about me.

Today I sit back and watch what's unfolding around me.  My daughters have moved on to re-arranging the furniture in their rooms; my son is outside playing basketball with a neighbor, waiting for another friend to come home.  They'll each pop into the kitchen where I'm writing, telling me quick facts or asking a question -

"Can I have a snack?"
"My laundry's folded!"
"Why would you want a picture of my feet?"

It's hard to remember those days before them, the anxious optimism.  I spent a lot of days walking into "the room," with a perfectly made bed, toys, clean and shiny, books lined up perfectly on the shelf I had painted with yellow roses, wondering who would live there, what she would look like, how I would feel.  Never did I imagine the range of emotions parenting would bring... the anguish of my five-year-old, clutching the small orange lifeless body of his first goldfish in his fist, tears threatening to slide down his reddened cheeks...the joy of seeing a letter scribbled in kindergarten spelling to the tooth fairy explaining where a lost tooth might be... or the stunned shock when my four year old clearly read F-U-C-K at the playground and her siblings gathering around, all wanting to know what that word meant, sure it was full of meaning if someone had taken the time to carve it on the swing set pole.

The biggest advice I'd tell my pre-mom self would be to stop planning.  Watch and live the journey with your kids.  Discover who they are and what they're like.  Marvel at the purple fuzzy socks with the too-short pants, the updates on baseball statistics I'd never thought to care about, and the books with torn covers and pages slipping out.  Savor the passionate arguments, evidence of strong will unfolding, the desperate clinging hugs complete with wails of "Don't go!!" as you leave daycare, and pleading voices of "Please don't embarrass us!" as you drop them off for school.

I might not be living the organized, tidy life I'd envisioned as I scribbled notes in the margins of parenting books all those years ago.  But ten years, many loads of laundry, bedtime kisses (some through covers with a mad little face scowling up at me), and lost mittens later, it's way better than that.


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