What a difference a week makes.
Last weekend I was at parenting rock bottom. At least, it felt like rock bottom at the time, except that term suggests a one time hit before climbing your way back up. But parenting isn’t like that, is it? Parenting is an ongoing journey with peaks and valleys and rolling hills that make your stomach lurch, sometimes from fear and sometimes from mind-blowing joy. Last week was one of those valleys that makes you forget about the fluid nature of a journey; I was convinced this was the endgame and I had lost.
And then a few people took the time to email me and tell me what 10 and 11 and this age for boys is often like. Some of the emails were from the perspective of having boys of this age in their homes right now, some from the perspective of having those memories fresh. Others were from the perspective of having been boys of that age. They all had one thing in common: perspective I needed.
The village I’m raising my children in right now is largely made up of people without children or people with children who are Emma’s age or younger. This is, I think, one of the consequences no one tells you about of having babies when you’re barely old enough to vote. You will have to do everything first. And here’s the thing about all of the parents around me being parents of children who are Emma’s age or younger:
It’s no coincidence that we decided to have a second child when Devin was about that age.
Children who are 3,4 and 5 years old are freaking adorable. They are constantly coming up with new ways to express their love for you, and the ways they mimic adults are not yet rude or sarcastic or disrespectful. When a 5 year old girl says, “I am making chocolate milk, Mommy” with an air of duh – it’s cute. When a 10 year old boy says it? The air of duh has graduated to full on you’re an idiot and cute has long ago fallen by the wayside.
The force with which a 3, 4 or 5 year old child can push a boundary is downright laughable compared to what a boy twice more than twice that age will apply to untested limits.
But I forget that. It’s not what I see on a regular basis. It’s not the perspective I use when trying to figure out if I’m a complete and total failure as a parent. But with a little help from the Internet, I took a stepped back and remembered all the times in recent memory that I had seen Devin among his peers. I compared, as best I could, apples to apples, and was relieved to find that mine was not, in fact, riddle with the worms of my incompetence.
(Truth be told, the kid’s a shining State Fair Blue Ribbon winner in most barrels.)
That being said, I certainly don’t want to parent my child by comparing him to other individuals – but I was doing it to an extent anyway. At least making fair comparisons gave me a more accurate picture of what, exactly, has been going on.
And what has been going on?
He’s 10, basically. Quickly rounding the bend to 11, even. And he’s spent the last couple of months with his grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins, instead of parents who will ground his ass for getting out of line. And so his mouth and his attitude were running amok, basically, with complete disregard for any boundaries of common freaking sense.
And then Mom and Dad had the come to Jesus meltdown.
Moms and dads, you know the one.
And, completely by coincidence, we shut the cable off at about the same time.
And, the Internet reminded me that I wasn’t abnormally bad at this.
And boy… what a difference a week makes.