Why is "hard" bad?
Updated: Jul 20
Sorry it has been so long, everybody. Reentry from a global pandemic has been rough for me these last several months. I mean - I forgot how to introduce my husband at a cocktail party the other day – wow! But I am here and hitting on a topic that I feel is relevant in today's parenting spiral. The question I want to ask is since when is "hard" bad?
I am not talking 37.98 x 87.6 type of hard, I am talking hard parenting, hard choices, hard work. This blog could go down many paths with the different types of difficult things out there. For example, it is tough to learn how to tie your shoes and it is really challenging to recover from hip surgery after you fall. But I want to hone in on hard with respect to parenting.
Being a parent is hard, like really really f..ing hard. Sure, there are those joy-filled moments where you are all snuggling and laughing in bed on a Sunday morning. Straight out of an early 90’s Downey commercial, you know the one with the cute little teddy bear. However, for the most part, our parental experience is work. In some way, shape, or form, parents are always parenting. Well, at least we would like to think we are.
We all want to make good human beings that can go out into this crazy world and do good, be good, succeed and be happy. No parent I know looks at their innocent sleeping baby and is like, I hope you grow up to be a rude, incapable, selfish narcist that steps all over people on the way to the top; gets divorced three times over and drinks themselves to sleep because they are friendless. That may be a bit extreme, but you get my point. That said, we are in a culture where more and more children are becoming incapable, selfish humans only interested in how they look on their social media feed or getting rich fast. Not all of them, but there is enough that you notice. But these teenager/ young adults didn’t just wake up one day this way, it’s been building since they were young.
I have observed over the years, not only from my kids but also from others who have parenting styles similar to my husband and me, that it starts at home and starts early. The earlier you lay the groundwork, the easier the work is when the "big" problems emerge. Mind you; I said easIER – not easy. No one gets off scot-free here. It is all challenging, but it is our job as parents to help teach our children how to be well-rounded, kind, respectful, fantastic adults. What a privilege that is, such tremendous responsibility, and hard work we have to do.
It is also hard for our children; and that is ok too. It is hard for them to navigate puberty, friendships, school, and all the other wants and needs society asks of them. It is hard for them to wait, for them to step out of their comfort zone. It is hard to learn how to cut steak and really hard to figure out what a good friend is and how to be one. But is that a bad thing? These are life lessons, life skills and if we give up on teaching them these things what does that say about us? They don’t know any better at 5 years old that tying their shoes is a life skill that once accomplished will forever change their foot wearing abilities, nor do they realize at 12 that making fun of others for the sake of a laugh is hurtful and mean. They don’t realize at 16 that having a summer job means you have to say no to your friends. That you have to show up on time and not leave early. It can be boring, difficult, and tedious. However, it will teach them skills of responsibility, hard work, respect, and time management. No one will argue these are all valuable life lessons, but they are hard, especially when everyone else you know is lounging by the pool or playing video games.
In the end, this work, both yours and theirs, is a badge of honor. We as parents wear it on our sleeves. It is not the work of the school, coach, teacher, boss, church, babysitter, nanny, grandparent, or friend. At the end of our lives, we will get the credit for how our child turns out, bad or good, it will lay on our shoulders. My child's first boss will not be at my bedside holding my hand as I die; it will, God willing, be my girls. There is of course, a blend of these people that help make up our "survival parenting village," but in the end, the buck starts and stops with us.
My husband and I hear it often "Do they listen to you like that all the time?" – I wish, but for the most part, if I ask something of my children, I get it. They sit at the dinner table both at home and in public; they can order their food, cut it and clean their dishes. They can look an adult in the eye and shake their hand with purpose. They talk to an adult with respect and know the value of a dollar. They say thank you with sincerity and treat their peers kindly. But they don't do it all the time, they are not perfect at it, and they are constantly growing in all areas of becoming an adult.
It is an ongoing job; it is hard, tedious, and tiring. It is annoying to remind my kids 9 million times to sit up at the dinner table at home and in public. It is tedious to remind my kids to speak clearly and look an adult in the eye. It is complicated navigating girl relationships, letting them learn for themselves, and giving them the tools needed to succeed without doing it for them. It isn't easy to get across why it's important to have good manners to a six-year-old and a 13-year-old at the same time. It is hard to explain why the Internet can be a scary and dangerous place to an 8-year-old and simultaneously give your 15-year-old the freedom to be active on social media. Control but not too much control, guidance but not too much guidance, freedom but not too much freedom, shit it’s exhausting!
It is hard to say no to your kid when they are begging and crying, and everyone else's kid can do "it." It sucks being the only mom not letting your kid do x, y, or z. It is hard to watch your child get hurt by a friend and let her figure out how to handle her peers and realize relationships are messy. It sucks to have them storm off in a fit of anger for whatever it is you suck at. But this is the critical turning point in all this. As a parent, do you double down because you know it's the right thing because you have lived 30 more years than them and have the insight they can't see? Do you recognize the teaching moment, the annoyingly hard moment, do you stand firm in your original beliefs, or do you cave? Do you address the language they used on you, explaining it is OK to be mad, but you cannot and will not speak like that? How can we expect our children to respect and care for others when they don't respect and care for you? You, me, all of us are adults; we deserve respect. Or do we let it all slide and let them do "it."
Are you honest with yourself when you answer why you caved? Was it because you feel like if you don't, they won't love you? Is it because if you give in, the outcome benefits you and your needs better? Or maybe you caved because your PMS-self went a little, cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs and it was better to cave than have DSF show up. I can tell you one thing for sure; it is easy to give in, it will always be easier to let them get what they want. However, in the long run that short moment of satisfaction will end up causing a lot more problems. We need to remember this is a marathon people, not a sprint.
It all takes work. Constant never-ending work and can be exhausting. No one should expect to be able to "teach" or "work" all the time. I definitely don't, I am not perfect at this by a long stretch. I pick my battles and work hard at the battles I choose. I pray for strength when I know my children need to learn something for themselves, however difficult that may be for them and me. I then work to let go of all the rest.
Can we as a group of parents do better for our children even though it’s harder now in this age of technology and instantaneous? I think we can, I think we must. These are amazing individuals we are putting out into the world; they deserve to have a solid foundation. A foundation based on more than just “yes.” A foundation built on being well-rounded, kind, respectful, hardworking, component, loving and patient - shit yeah. We can do this people – fist bump! We are all here for each other, I am here for you. Hard work - sure, but it doesn’t have to be bad work. In fact, it is remarkable work and for that you should hold your head up high and be proud. You are doing remarkable necessary hard work. Stay strong in the battles you find important. Remember it is the end result you are striving for and this precious and complicated child takes hard work to get right.
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