Thursday, May 8, 2014

The Hardest Season of Parenting

Being a parent is hard.

When I had my babies and experienced sleepless nights, exploding diapers, ear infections and sore boobies- I thought: "This is the hardest season. It will eventually end and things will be easier- just hang on."

Then I had toddlers who colored on walls and furniture, who got into the fridge and smeared eggs and cheese everywhere and who stripped naked in the park. I thought "Babies were easy! Toddlers are the hardest! This is the hardest season, and the next season will be easier. Just hang on."

They started school and we had to deal with homework, and losing shoes and backtalking and driving and sitting through school/music/sports events. There were teachers who would say things like "free spirited" and not in a good way and Pinewood Derbies that we lost every single year. Again, I told myself THIS was the hardest season, hang on.

You know what is coming next...puberty. Teenage hormones..... growth spurts, eating a week's worth of groceries in two days, odors, crushes, kids torn between wanting to please and wanting to prove that they are different form Mom and Dad. Kissing, driving, more odors and mood swings. Size 13 shoes and bras. Obviously THAT was the hardest season. Hang on, the ride was almost over, even though sometimes, it felt like it had only started yesterday.

(that is smeared pizza on the wall, not poop or blood- this time)

The pitter patter of little feet was replaced by the sounds of elephants stampeding and a child who ran to your for a band-aid when he stubbed a toe was now shoving grass up his freshly broken nose, so the ref wouldn't pull him from the game for bleeding.

I now have three kids who are officially young adults and the rest aren't that far behind.

 One of them is struggling, after having made some mistakes, to find his footing again and get confidence in himself so he can go forward and make choices in his life again. When he crashed, he knew home was the soft place to land, where he'd be loved- no matter what. He has battles yet to fight, and struggles to give himself credit for the dragons he has already slain.

 One of my young adults in in London, doing a class abroad as she spreads her wings and works hard at college and has shown to have her father's love of travel and new places. The home/nest is a place to store your stuff and do your laundry- the world is at her feet.

 My other young adult is preparing to serve his mission, just a few more steps before the papers are turned in after almost everything that could delay him or discourage him has happened. He has had a friendship not only end, but the person who was such a close friend has been completely cruel to him and we have all been hurt by the way this person has chosen to deal with her feelings.
It knocked him on his butt, as he doesn't have much experience trusting in the first place. The timing of this was the worst, and it hurt him enough that he struggled to have the confidence to move forward. 
We have circled the wagons around him and all of us have been dealing with feelings of betrayal and the rabid protectiveness that you get when someone is attacking a member of your family.  As a family, we made the choice not to retaliate and to just get distance. It doesn't change the actions of others, but it keeps us focused on the actual goals we have as a family- and at the top of those goals is to support Zane during this transitional time of his life.

And if you ask me...THIS is the hardest season.
Apparently, they are all hard.
They are wonderful, but they are hard.

No matter what season is is, your kids worry you and your heart strings are stiff from all the tugging. You do not exhale and think "it's over" and you don't actually want it to be over- you just want your kids to be happy.
 I expect that when my kids are 40, I will still think being a Mom is hard-- always what I want, always worth it, always so much more joy than pain- but never easy.
I have learned that 'easy' isn't the goal, the goal is 'happy.' As a parent, every decision you make goes back to what will help your family learn to seek out the good, to cherish and value the joy and to love themselves and others enough to let themselves be happy.
We want them to seek out others who have the same goal. They do not have to share the same ideals and opinions, what I hope, always is that my children find friends and companions who believe they have a right to happiness and that others do as well. It's cliche' but it is true: happiness is a choice.
You have seasons in your life that are absolute hell. Life is not all sunshine and rainbows and there are seasons when just getting dressed takes all that you have. The key is to know that you want better, to remind yourself that although things are a nightmare now- one day they will be better and when they are better, you will be aware of it and let yourself enjoy it.
Some seasons are full of blooms and some seasons, the snow and cold bury you. Just know that the sun will return and the blooms will come back and when they do, let go of the cold and soak up the good things around you.
The cold will come back, but so will the sun.

 Matt and I are working together to use some of these transitional experiences to teach our kids to see the red flags in friendships that aren't as balanced as they should be, to helping them see that some people only value what you give to them and it isn't a two way street. They place a higher value on what they bring to the table and act as if what you bring was owed to them in the first place, and is of little worth.  If you no longer can meet that need, they hate you. We're helping them see that there are things people will ask- out of friendship or love- that they should never ask, that they have to find for themselves. It doesn't help the other person if you are  to be the scapegoat or the emotional garbage can. They have to choose to look for the good, in themselves and in others.

This is the hardest thing about parenting, regardless of the season.
It is so hard when your children wonder if they are worth it, when they are discouraged and lose faith in their own light or when they feel they don't deserve the light because of some weakness or flaw they perceive in themselves.When they get swept up by things that make them unhappy, and forgetful of just how important they really are and how loved they are. It is hard for Mom and Dad and it is hard for the child, regardless of their age.

Every age is the hardest age.

I hope that I have taught my kids that the light is always there, that they are always welcome and always wanted.
No night is so long and so dark that the sun does not rise again. No relationship is so bad, that you can never find a better one again. Every chain we place on ourselves, can be removed when we realize we are worth it, we deserve and desire to live free and happy- even if there are those who think we don't.
I love each of my children and hope that they know that whatever roads they choose in life- I am rooting for them and I want them to be happy. I know that it is hard, I know there will be roadblocks that make them stumble and there will be people who break their hearts. I also know that each one of my seven wild kids has the capacity to love and be loved in return. I know they have experienced the warm sunlight on their skin and the warmth of unconditional love in their hearts and if they will seek out that feeling as they progress into adulthood, that they can find it and it will get them through the darker seasons.

These are my thoughts on this rainy afternoon as all of the conflicting weird emotions of the upcoming Mother's Day holiday start to freak me out. My heart is turned towards my children, and the knowledge that if I've done nothing else good in my life, I taught my kids that the sunshine and light are there, and it is there for them.


It is there for me and it is there for you. It is there for your children and it is there for the people who don't understand you and the people who hate you and harm you. It is there when we screw up and it is there when we hide. Light and happiness are always there, or right around the corner, just hang on.


  1. Such a wonderful wonderful post! I have to speak in Sacrament Meeting on Mother's Day. UGH! So, lots and lots of thoughts and feelings have been churning around in my head. You articulated many of them and I thank you.

  2. I also have to speak in Sacrament Meeting on Mother's Day. My mind has been whirling in circles trying to figure out what to say. You've said it most succintly. Thank you for helping me organize my thoughts!