by Susan Krasnicki Nappi
I have no advice to give you about raising kids.
After 14 years I can tell you that as soon as I thought I had it figured out, the ‘it’ slipped through my fingers. I can’t tell you what I did that made them like sushi, memorize pi to 14 digits, or to be kind. I also don’t know what I did to make them ignore me when I'm carrying 5 bags of groceries or forget to say 'thank you.' I don’t know if the screen time they consume is too much or just right. I don’t know the magical age to let them have Snapchat or date a boy. I am not sure whether they will be happy, sad, addicted, or whole. I have run out of theories, oh so many theories, about their sleep habits, hormones, and tantrums. I’m not sure when our second born stopped walking on her toes or whether the few white spots she has on her teeth are because I didn’t realize she was swallowing her toothpaste for a year (?!). I have worried sick that my introversion pushed them away, that my anxiety made them anxious, or that they saw me loathe myself in secret.
I learned (the hard way) that Hallmark moments are not orchestrated or planned but spontaneously arise when I just hang out long enough with them. I learned that if I run after them, they will flee but if I just let them be, they will come back. I learned that the only thing that really matters is managing my own feelings and expectations and realizing that they know before I do whether I’m being authentic. I learned to keep things simple and be clear with my intentions, which means taking care of myself first so I don’t confuse them. I learned that sometimes their actions are a by product of my own chaos, fear, or anger and sometimes they have nothing to do with me. I learned that letting go of plans and saying as few words as possible is more effective than giving advice, making threats, or clinging to my own ideas about their future. I learned that understanding my own boundaries is just as important as helping them understand theirs.
Could my kids be more thoughtful? Less rude at times? More helpful? You bet. And so could I and so could you.
In the past 14 years I’ve planned wonderful parties, baked (really good) cookies, and taken care of needs they didn’t know they had. I also yelled too much, said things that hurt, and wasn’t always present. All I know is I did my absolute best in the moment.
I don’t have any advice to give you but I can listen when you tell me how hard it is. We can sit until you calm down, dry your tears, and get back up again to make those daily, hard decisions. I can assure you that if you just keep going beyond the fear, you’ll have everything you need to parent for this moment and the one after that.