Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Putting out the Fires

 Being a parent is much like being a fire fighter. You are constantly putting out fires.  And just when you think you have one put out, another pops up; and another; and another.

You fight the fire with everything you have, but often find it smolders and the embers can re-ignite when you least expect it.

They say getting old is not for sissies – well neither is parenthood. You breathe a sigh of relief when your child is potty-trained. You feel you have made it through the rough stuff when they finally sleep through the night.  However, while babies are physically exhausting, teens are mentally and emotionally exhausting.

My mother always said, you are only as happy as your unhappiest child.  Unfortunately, I’ve discovered that you never have three happy, content children for more than 3 days!  Just when you think you have it down, you’ve solved their problems and you can relax and get a good night’s sleep – bam, another crisis pops up.

Report cards come home; friends fight; curfews are broken; rules are ignored; another fire needs to be put out.

It helps tremendously to have a partner when going through this. It also helps to talk it out with fellow parents. You need someone who can tell you, “It’s okay. You will get through this. This too shall pass. Your child is not a juvenile delinquent.” All clichés but, in times of crisis, all acceptable  - and welcome -phrases to a frantic parent.

I have often found myself doubting my abilities as a parent when I am dealing with my children. Yes, they are that good at battling.

“Maybe they’re right. Maybe I don’t know anything. May be I am trying to ruin their lives. Maybe I never was a teenager. Maybe I am being too hard. Maybe no one else’s parents are this mean.”

Has this ever happened to you? Have you ever questioned (not your sanity – we all lost that years ago) your parenting skills? When this happens, when doubts arise, I have one piece of advice – call a fellow parent! (And not one of those who are trying to be their child’s best friend!) 

Call your brother or sister, your neighbor, your best friend – anyone with a child the same age. It’s called commiserating and it is not only helpful, it is necessary, especially during those tween and teen years. Your child does it – why can’t you?

A good ally will always be on your side. “Yes, you are right. Yes, they are trying to drive you crazy. Yes, you should tell your 13-year-old she has a curfew. Yes, a bad grade does allow you to take away their cell phone/computer privileges. Yes, you are a good parent - no matter what your child says.”

In the mean time, we will continue to put out the fires. We will continue to do battle. And while we may not win them all, we shall put up a good fight, and pray we make it through the teenage years. 

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