I’m embarrassed to admit I’ve been bested by my son’s math homework. He’s 11. I literally had to Google his homework before I could help him. He is in Pre-Algebra, folks. In my defense, I am a writer and a therapist (words are my thing, not numbers!), and my last math class was freshman year in college. In 1992. I’m not stupid, I made it through AP Calculus in high school after all. But boy do I feel stupid now, especially now that I’ve admitted this to the world.
Parenting is hard. It’s not what I thought it would be. You feel me on this, right? I read all about what to expect when expecting. I knew my child development theories. I knew what behaviors were normal phases and what might be psychiatric issues. I knew I would have to teach manners and empathy and compassion. Hell, I’ve even managed to throw in mindfulness and meditation into the mix with my kids.
But math? I hadn’t counted on math. This shit is hard. I’ll tell you what else is hard. Accepting my kids as-is, and loving them unconditionally. Sounds like a no-brainer, right? But quite honestly, I’d like my daughter to be more organized, less emotionally reactive, and more driven. I’m the first to admit I criticize and critique more than I ought to. I’m the first to admit I ought to be supportive and patient, and patiently teach skills to foster such traits. I don’t. Because I’m pulled in a million different directions and I’m just not wired to parent in that way; you know, that good-parenting way. Holding space for my children to be who they are is difficult when I’d like them to be more, or less.
Being present with my kids is another hard thing. I know, I’m supposed to cherish every moment because time flies. Time does fly, which is why I need to manage our time and schedules and make sure everyone gets to where they need to be. I need to make sure their bellies are full and their backs are clothed and their heads are cultured and their limbs are strong. I also need to make sure my soul is filled. So we’re a little busy. I try, but I could do a better job with being present in each moment with the kids.
And my soul being filled leads me to another difficult struggle. The balance between taking care of self and taking care of the kids. Meeting the needs of the children, and meeting your own needs. How much is too selfish? How much is being a martyr and losing yourself? This give and take waxes and wanes daily, and shifts through each family member’s developmental stage. I hadn’t counted on this one. I just stupidly assumed I’d take care of the kids and make sure business got done. I had no idea there would be so much juggling and balancing and sacrificing and guilty-hand-wringing.
Providing structure and guidance and expectations without killing fiery spirits–this is hard too. Honoring these little people with bright sparks and passions and willful ways, while trying to teach them acceptable and expected behaviors is not a strength of mine. I tend to say “no” too often.
These things are harder than math. Because at least the interwebs can help me with math. This other parenting stuff is all trial and error and winging it. It’s a lot of getting it wrong. I tell the Boy that his math homework’s value is the opportunity for practice. We practice these new skills until we’re better at them. I tell him it’s not about getting the problems all right all the time. But that it’s practice, and it’s this process that’s the true value. So I’m trying to focus on gratitudes for these opportunities to practice these parenting skills. I’m screwed though when the Boy wants to take computer coding.