Let’s be honest. Most of us have no clue what we’re doing when it comes to parenting our kids; otherwise, why would there be so many articles on Facebook telling us all the ways we are doing it wrong? I was so much wiser about parenting before I actually had a child, and now most days feel a little like, “Um, I think this is right?” We want to be great at it and have all the right answers and give our kids all the things they need to ensure they don’t end up living in a van down by the river, but we don’t always know what those things are, and—here’s the tricky part—every new stage requires a new set of skills. Just when you think you are really amazing because you taught a small human how to use the toilet, the game changes and the potty-training portion of parenting is just a distant memory with some lingering PTSD.
I currently find myself in the parenting stage of having an adolescent. Anyone else spend their own years as an adolescent reading James Dobson’s book Preparing for Adolescence because your mom handed it to you and said it would help with any questions you had? I don’t remember getting much out of it back then, but now I’m wondering if I should re-read it to help me navigate the world of social politics in junior high for the second time. As if it wasn’t painful enough the first time, you have to do it again with a person you love even more than you love yourself. This can lead to fantasizing about yanking a thirteen-year-old girl by the ponytail and telling her to straighten up and act right.
Sometimes that girl is your own child.
Just a few nights ago, Caroline and I were sitting together on the couch when I saw a roach run across the living room floor. I immediately jumped up and began scrambling to kill it with my shoe. This is absolutely the grossest thing ever but far preferable to having a live roach in your house. So I dashed around the living room until I finally got it and then realized Caroline had never even looked up from her iPad. I asked, “Did you not see me trying to kill that roach?” and she replied, “Oh, is that what you were doing? I just thought you were dancing around the living room acting weird.” This basically sums up the daily humiliation of having a teenager. You lose all semblance of coolness and just become someone (in their minds) who’s likely to decide to “dance around and act weird” in your living room at midnight.
As a parent, I have made mistakes and will continue to make mistakes. I’ve been too strict and I’ve been too lenient. I’ve yelled too much and I haven’t yelled enough. I’ve second-guessed decisions Perry and I have made, and ultimately find myself on my knees asking God to cover the places where we are going to get it wrong. Parenting is like a pop quiz some days and—SURPRISE!—there’s an essay portion at the end.
It’s mentally exhausting to navigate all the emotions and the line between being sympathetic and telling them to buck up and quit feeling sorry for themselves. It’s determining the line between appropriate amounts of social media and being a Quaker. Or is it the Amish? Who doesn’t use computers? I can’t remember because I used all my brain power today trying to explain to a thirteen-year-old why it’s important to take Spanish as an elective as opposed to being an Office Aide.
Taken from Church of the Small Things by Melanie Shankle. Copyright © 2017 by Melanie Shankle. Used by permission of Zondervan. www.zondervan.com. All rights reserved.
Melanie Shankle is the New York Times bestselling author behind Nobody’s Cuter Than You, The Antelope in the Living Room, Sparkly Green Earrings and the latest Church of the Small Things: The Million Little Pieces That Make Up a Life. She first shared her hilarious observations and loving wisdom on The Big Mama Blog, which helped define a new genre of blogging for women as it attracted a devoted audience now thousands deep. The Texas A&M graduate is also a guest blogger for high profile outlets and an in-demand speaker at events across the country. A proud Texan, self-professed Target junkie and lover of Anthropologie sales, Melanie calls San Antonio home with her husband Perry, teenage daughter Caroline and two wild dogs Piper and Mabel. For more information, please visit www.MelanieShankle.com.