Thursday, October 9, 2014

The Best Parents Don't Have Kids

Let's talk about kids. Y'all want to?

Kids are the ones that make this parenting thing hard. Right?

I mean we grow up and turn into (somewhat) adults. Sometimes. And we have it all together. Kind of. And then we have kids. We become parents. And it is joyous. It's miraculous. It is sweet slobbers and cuddles. Sometimes it feels like a nightmare. And you can't remember what you even did or had in life before your kids.

I remember bringing Milkmaid #1 home from the hospital and thinking, "Oh my gosh....the professionals let me leave that hospital with this tiny human. I don't know how to grow a tiny human. What were they thinking....!?!?!" 

And it is hard.

Because here you were...this young adult....walking around, having it all together and you are thinking (if not telling) that when you have kids they will not, under any circumstance ________. And you will not be allowing any _________. And that angel that you are in charge of will be the perfect kid. And we ain't having NONE of ________. Just fill in the blanks. You know you've said it...especially if you don't have any kiddos. I was an expert parent before I became a mom.


These kiddos come out of the dark and into the cold harsh light and immediately have a mind of their own. Holy. Crap. 

And then the professionals send you home with your tiny human and you are not at all prepared for what is to come. Because you can read every parenting book and every psychology book and every expert's opinion, but here is another surprise....this kid, the one you ended up with....there ain't another one like it. This one is special. This one has unique qualities and there isn't a how-to book in the world (short of the Bible) that can tell you how to properly raise your particular offspring. 

I'm gonna let all y'all in on a secret....lean in real close....are you listening?
Some days you are parent of the year, if by the end of the day, everyone is still breathing and has been fed. 

It's the truth. It is a win. 

And by the time your angel monster kiddo is an expert parent without any real parenting experience you will be able to tell what amount of damage success you have achieved.

Kinda like a really long experiment. Fingers crossed.

Now for me and the Milkman, any success we have had with the Milkmaids goes to God. Without our faith and God's grace I (maybe not the Milkman) would be in a padded room tied up in a straight jacket. Some days I'm not sure I shouldn't be there.

In my 9 years experience there are a few things I have learned. I know y'all are dying to know what they are:

1. It ain't easy. 
     It just isn't. Deal with it.

2. Pick your battles.
          If you argue, fight, and say no to, every single thing, you do nothing but exhaust yourself. I do not mean that you give in and allow the kids to make the rules, but parents don't always have to have their way either. For example: Milkmaid #2 wants an item (any item) at the store to be hers. And in the checkout line she asks the cashier "Can I hab my own wittle bag?" Do I think she needs her own bag...? No. But letting her have her own little bag makes her feel like she is helping me and I keep my sanity in the check out line. Today...they were out of little bags so she had starbursts in a big bag. That just wasn't the same, but it worked out. Don't let your kids make the rules. And don't let constant whining and screaming and fit throwing scare you. If you are in a battle with the monster angel and you have put your foot down...then keep your foot down. This is probably a battle you need to that you can avoid the war later in life. Understand that everything doesn't have to be a battle.

3. Your little person is their own little person.
       They come out with a mind of their own. They have a personality. You don't have to micromanage everything. This one is hard for me. Milkmaid #1 broke me, early on, of a lot of it. She is 9 and I cannot shop for her. Anything I bring home gets returned. She has her own style. And as long as she isn't trying to wear these clothes in her size that look like they belong on a corner in the red light district (yes...these clothes are in stores...made for little kids...and it's disturbing) I give her room to be her own person. Milkmaid #2 likes to pull her socks up over her pants and wear flip flops. This one is a little further for me to get to, but I'll let her wear it when we take sissy to school. Because we don't have to get out of the car and I'm the only one that sees the fashion statement. Your goal as a parent is to shape them into good people, into productive citizens, give them morals and values. And if socks and flip flops is what makes them happy...let them wear them. Even if it's only where you can see them. 

4. Let life be fun.
    I struggle here. The farm keeps us busy. And when you add school, ball, violin, church, visiting friends and every other activity in, we are living in that hurry up house. We are always rushing. And I am so guilty of forgetting that the Milkmaids need some downtime. They need to play and run free outside. They need me to have fun with them. For 3 days now I have listened to one song. On repeat. Thank you, Taylor Swift, for Shaking it Off...because I have taken time to dance with my girls. I have heard them sing the words to a song that might teach them a good lesson and we have had fun. It is hard in our fast paced world to just stop for some fun.

5. You cannot control everything. And if you try....everything will control you. 
    Calm down. There is a plan. You don't have to know it. 

6. Kids are dirty creatures.
    There is drool and spit up and snot and all kinds of disgustingness coming from all kinds of places. And there is dirt and mud and grass stains and food and things you'd rather not know about when your kids play. That first kid you never gets too dirty. Then you realize a bath is easier than starting a battle that you didn't have to fight. Most kids like getting dirty. Mr. & Mrs. Fancy Pants kid...she doesn't like getting dirty...she has Mr. Fancy Pants to thank for that, but one of these days I'm gonna sit that kid in a mud puddle and give her a bowl of pink icing and teach her to get dirty. Milkmaid #1 never liked to get overly dirty, but stick that kid on a ball field and she won't come out so clean. Milkmaid #2 is exactly like the Milkman....they can walk into a sterile room and come out with grease and dirt all over them. Dirt attacks them. It clings to them like a bald man to his toupee. Ive learned that it's okay to get dirty sometimes.

7. No matter some will open your mouth and your mother/father will come spilling out. 
    Holy cow. That first time you hear your mother is shocking. There's recoil. One second you are talking at your kid and the next your hand is over your mouth and you have forgotten why you were even saying what you were saying and you are looking around all stunned wondering where she is hiding. Come out, Mother! I know you are here because there is no way that I just said what I think I said. Eventually you accept that you have become a real parent and you will forever sound like your mother or father. Congrats when you get to this're probably doing okay.

8. Giving things is not the same as giving love and time.
     It's deep. Just think about it.

9. Youth is lost on the young.
     Good grief. If I had all the energy my Milkmaids have I would get so much done! If you combined youth with experience and knowledge...imagine what could be done. Okay. Stop imagining...because some of you are thinking of things that are exactly the reason God gives youth to the young. 

10. You will say things to your child that you can't ever imagine yourself actually saying to a tiny person.
      "No. Do not eat that booger."
       "Stop biting your toenails."
       "Spotty Tiger doesn't really have to sit on the potty." aka take a bath in the toilet you just peed in.
       "Do not put that up your nose."
       "Did you just shove that whole thing in your mouth?!? Here...spit it out in my hand." stop it.
       "Don't lick my face." We aren't talking to the dog, either.
11. When you punish them...don't punish yourself.
       Saying, "You are grounded for a month!" may seem like a good idea at the time...but what it will really mean is that you will have a solid month of whining and asking the same questions over and over again. And when there is no TV, iPod, phone, etc you become the primary source of entertainment. And that is okay for a while, but for the love of pete...stop staring at me and read a book! Make the punishment fit the crime, but remember your role in the whole thing! You gotta be sticking to those promises too.
12. You are doing fine.
       You do not have to let your kid do everything they want to. They don't have to be involved in everything. They will not miss out because you didn't let them take dance or karate or piano.
      You do not have to feed everything organic or "natural." Some good old fashioned hamburger helper made with beef from the store is okay. (Probably not every night...that would get old.)
       You don't have to be "that mom" (or dad) that makes everything happen....She is super annoying anyway.
       It is okay if you didn't teach your kid sign language as a baby. Still a large possibility that your kid will be a productive member of society.
       It is okay if you did teach your kid sign language as a baby. Because that is pretty cool...
Kids are resilient. They are made that way. Once, right after Milkmaid #1 was born I dropped the phone on her head. It hit her ear. And I cried for an hour. I was a terrible mom. Guess what...she doesn't remember it. I won't forget it. We don't always get it right, but we are doing the best we can and that counts for something.

Parenting comes with a job description that is different for each kid. And it changes with every year that passes. It isn't always clear what you need to be doing, but have a little faith. There are parts that are the same for everybody and every kid.

Your job is to keep them safe. Teach them respect. Teach them love. Teach them kindness and generosity. Teach them to fight. They need to learn how to fight for themselves and for those who cannot fight for themselves. Teach them to stand up for what they believe in. Teach them that different opinions are okay. Teach them that there are bad people in the world. And that they don't have to become one. 

Parenting is tough. Life is tough. But you are doing fine. Keep loving. Keep praying. Keep giving. I just thank God for His grace. Because without it this house would be in all kinds of trouble.