Finding TIME to Parent…
Awhile ago, my kids and I got invited to a cookie-decorating party. The party was hosted by my friend, whose home looks like something out of a magazine. I’m not a home-decorating kind of girl, so I don’t even know WHICH magazine. But definitely a magazine. A magazine where people live in gorgeous farmhouses that actually LOOK like REAL farmhouses, but in the best possible way.
Anyway, my disheveled crew of boys and I walk up to this fairytale wonderland, and their polite little fairy-daughter greets us at the door, and asks if she can “help us carry anything?” As my admiring and appreciative eyes move back and forth between her, and the pristine spread behind her, I notice MY boys (who are they in this fairytale scene? The trolls? The big bad wolves?) run into the living room, rip their socks and shoes off their feet…and throw them all into a big jumble in the MIDDLE of the living room.
I was horrified. So rude! So unmannerly! So impolite! What was the MATTER with them? Why would they DO that? Come now, little trolls. Put your socks INSIDE your shoes, and line them up nicely by the door. What on earth were you THINKING??
That scene bothered me for the rest of the day. It was such a stark contrast to the polite child who had greeted us at the door, for one thing. For another, it was just plain rude. For a third, it was a poor reflection on me. I kept thinking, “why would they act that way?” It was only later that afternoon that I was able to answer my own question. “Because I never taught them NOT to throw their socks and shoes in the middle of someone’s living room. I never taught them to line them up by the front door.”
Which led me down a rabbit trail of all sorts of other things the poor lost souls NEEDED to be taught, that they weren’t being.
I’m not saying I don’t teach them ANYTHING. Of course I do. But it occurred to me that every day, any number of incidences such as the one described above occur, and I find myself thinking, “why would you do that/act that way/think that was acceptable/say that,” and I’ve always thought it was because they are crazy, and must have a screw loose or something, but in reality, it probably boils down to the fact that I simply haven’t TAUGHT them. They have to be taught EVERYTHING, you know. They are CHILDREN. The only thing they innately know how to do without being taught is “how to be a pain in the butt” (or “how to be a total heart-melter” of course. It all depends on the moment.)
A few days later, I invited a friend of mine and her two children to come over after school for a play date. She regretfully declined the invite, as she explained (and I quote) “I really want to. But I think I need to just stay home and do some actual parenting.” She went on to explain that they had been having some behavioral issues with her son, and because of that, she had made the decision to temporarily cut back on play dates, errands, commitments…just ALL THE THINGS…and focus simply on…parenting.
I thought, “How wise!” Because the truth of the matter was, as I had gone down the rabbit trail of all the things I needed to be teaching my children (and wasn’t), I had come to the conclusion, “but I just don’t have TIME to teach them all this. I don’t have TIME to parent.”
I don’t have time, because I am too busy going to the gym. And play dates. And errands. And commitments. Taking the kids to fun places. Getting together with other families. Crossing things off to-do lists. Mostly all good things. But still just THINGS that are keeping me from doing the most important and meaningful thing of all…PARENTING.
So if you can relate to this, I encourage you to ask yourself:
- What are some things I can cut out of my schedule?
- What are some things I can stop saying “yes” to? Even if it’s just temporarily?
- What am I prioritizing over PARENTING my CHILDREN?
Because we have to parent our children, you guys.
It’s great and admirable to keep them alive and tend to their basic needs (no really..it is. Just doing that alone, is quite possibly the most difficult job a person could ever have), BUT…far more rewarding than keeping them alive, is to eventually present to the world honorable, respectable, brave, noble and kind humans, of rich character, who live largely, love well, and make the world a better place, and that doesn’t happen all on it’s own.
It happens by parenting well, and you have to make the time to do it.