You know that horribly whiny Leanne Womack song, “I Hope You Dance?” The one where she wishes all these great things for either her ex-lover or a kid or whomever? I thought parenting would feel a lot like that: the wanting so many things for your children.
Lately, I find myself thinking more about the things I don’t want for my children.
Like the norovirus spreading across the country, our friends, and our family like wildfire right now. Though maybe that’s a selfish want, or non-want, as it seems to mutate for the adult folks in the families that catch it. I don’t want to puke for hours and have to go to the Emergency Room. Neither do I want my children to puke. Because I’m the one who gets to clean it up.
I don’t want the boys to end up lazy, entitled whiners, which is why I make them clean their rooms, help with their laundry, load and unload the dishwasher, and most recently taught them to clean up the dog poop. The latter wasn’t totally selfish either, but yeah, it’s definitely not a favorite chore of anyone in the house.
I don’t want them to be unkind to others. I just don’t. They’ve endured some other children with really cruddy attitudes already, and while I can’t get all Mama Bear on small children, I kind of feel like the tween years afford me the space to tell a child in my home to can it. Mine included. I also don’t want them to stand idly by when others are being unkind, nor do I want them to act as doormats out of the sake of kindness. Learning to stand your ground is one of those super hard lessons.
I do want them to learn super hard lessons. But oh, I wish I could take the sting out. I won’t. I just wish.
I don’t want them to feel afraid to come to us with any issue on their mind or heart. When LittleBrother told us, “Uhm, pizza rolls aren’t really my favorite,” I chalked it up as a win. Why? Prior to the past few months, the child would choke through a meal or snack that he didn’t like for the sake of pleasing us. I like that he’s finding a way to verbalize his likes and his dislikes. I do want to tell him, however, that he doesn’t dislike sausage as much as he thinks he does every time he wolfs down my homemade stuffing. Someday. But this point is bigger than food likes and dislikes and wanting to please your parents. I think we’ve done a good job fostering that kind of open communication, but I know it gets harder as they grow older.
I don’t want them to equate healthy living solely with weight loss. I want them to understand that we walk, run, play sports, hike, and generally move our bodies, first and foremost, because it’s fun. I want them to enjoy eating healthy as much as they enjoy splurging on a night of fun foods for dinner. I don’t want them to get caught in a mental trap that we exercise as punishment for what we eat or that we eat solely for fueling alone. There’s as much fun in food as there is in moving your body.
I don’t want them to know the midnight hours of insomnia. I want their brains to slowly shut off as they snuggle down into bed. I don’t want them to feel the gripping terror of anxiety, in the middle of the night or during the day. I don’t want them to smother under the dark, lowering cloud of depression. I don’t want them to think the only way out of a situation is to leave. I don’t want them ever to consider a permanent solution to a temporary problem.
But we can’t have everything we want for our children, neither can we magically help them avoid all those things we wouldn’t wish on our worst enemy. I don’t have protective bubble for my sons, my daughter. Even in my most helicopter parenting days, I couldn’t save them from everything.
Parenting is the ultimate loss of control. Birth parenting takes it to another entirely difficult and sometimes defeating level.
I do know this: Even when my children experience the hard things, the things I don’t want for them in this moment or for their futures, I’ll still be here, loving them. My love is not conditional. I did not bring them into this world to turn my back on them in their hours of need. Sometimes I can’t physically be there in that moment, holding them, but my love knows no bounds.
I don’t want them to ever think my love is dependent upon their performance. They are so, so loved. It is my ultimate hope that all three of my beautiful children understand this in the deepest core of their beings, even on those days when everything is broken. There is hope. There is love. There is a mother who will wrap them in her arms and weep with them when those things happen to them, when they make bad decisions, or when things out of their control drop them to their knees.
“Cause I have been where you are before…”