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Ronda Stevenson

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Parenting Expectations...Then Reality

First, a special Mother's Day 2012 call out to my daughter, Destyn, who will welcome her first child, a son, in August. Congratulations to Destyn and to my son-in-law, Doug, as they look forward to and embark on this journey of parenthood.

Ah, Mother's Day. The day we mothers cling to for validation that we did a good job as parents, as mothers. That special day that our offspring look to us with gratitude and declare how lucky they are to have us as their very own. The perfect mother. Right?

Truth is, real life is usually a bit different from the sweet sentiments expressed in greeting cards, though I am a sucker for the sappy sentiments. I, for one, often reflect back on the 42 plus years of raising children and cringe at some of my parenting skills, or lack thereof. Especially the early years with my first son, Jeff, when being a parent is like being put on a motorcycle before you've even ridden the tricycle. No rule book. No helmet. No training wheels. Few instructions, even fewer warnings. My son was on a journey with me without sign posts, without maps.

Oh, there are books and more books to help the new, struggling mom (and dad) to get through the never ending changes that accompany growing babies and children. And, if they are lucky, there is a strong network of support. Of course, that support may come with lots of well-meaning advice with varying degrees of accuracy, some welcome, some perhaps not. Much of what is written seems practical enough, but is mostly "blah, blah, blah" until you've actually come face to face with each new milestone, mood, drama and boo boo in real life. I think there are very few 'textbook' children and lots of dogeared books gathering dust in the corner.

The challenge of raising children is exactly that. A challenge. Everything we do and say has some kind of an impact on our child. It's a road that we begin with love so intense and perfect that it's difficult to imagine anything different. And then we begin the first week with that new little bundle of crying, eating, pooping, peeing, more crying, sleeping...and then it starts over again. Thank goodness we get to experience the sweet coos, the nuzzles, the funny yet adorable little face, miniature fingers and toes and the blessed quiet while they sleep warm in our arms or cozy in our neck.

The reality is sometimes unexpected. It's tough at times. Horrible at other times. But, for me, the most challenging times have become a hazy memory, like the labor of childbirth. Maybe that's why we keep going back for more. The more challenging moments are not the ones that come to mind when I think about all of those years. The ones that are in the forefront, that I recall more vividly, are the sweetest ones. The laughter, the ridiculously silly antics, the snuggles while reading stories, the affectionate hugs and kisses, sitting on the floor playing games, and so much more.

That is the reality. Over time, the positive memories will usually win out over the more difficult or heartbreaking ones. I wouldn't change my life with my children. I'm lucky to have them and I'm grateful for my memories with them.

You will be, too.

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