This year, instead of waiting for my kids to wish me a Happy Mother’s Day, I’m going to wish THEM a Happy Mother’s Day. After all, they’re the ones who taught me how to be their mother.
Parenting is a long game. A really, really, long game. I wasn’t prepared for it. I’m not the mother I thought I would be before I had kids, thanks to my son and daughter who aren’t the kids I expected to have before I had them.
Don’t get me wrong, I did “prepare” for kids. I had solutions for all the pre-conceived parenting scenarios I thought I would encounter. I mistakenly assumed my kids would be similar to the kind of kid I was. I was ready for rebellion. I was ready to be hated by them during their teenage years, and I was ready for all the drama that never happened.
Parenting forced me to learn to be consistent in my very inconsistent way. I had to learn to listen to my gut instincts instead of others’ opinions. I learned over, and over again to trust my intuition and do what I already knew was right.
When my kids were little and arguments or fights broke out, I used to sit them down at the kitchen table. Each had the opportunity to tell their version and I played judge and jury and doled out punishment accordingly. One day, after a “court session” my son came to me and said, “You’ll never believe me because she is older and tells stories better than I do.” He was right.
By pitting my kids against each other, they were only learning to be better storytellers and liars to avoid punishment. I also realized that if I wanted my kids to come to me for help and guidance when they’ve done something stupid or wrong (especially as they got older), there couldn’t be punishment attached to it. I wanted to be their coach and mentor, not their jailer. From that moment on, our focus shifted from blame and punishment to correcting and preventing problems.
My kids taught me that we didn’t need a bunch of rules that I always forget to enforce anyway. We had one rule at our house: respect each other. Somewhere along the way, I also figured out that natural consequences, or the as-close-to-natural-Mom-made ones provided much better learning opportunities than punishment ever did.
I remember when they were both quite young, we lived in rural BC. Once a week, I would drive into town to run errands with them. They thought it was funny when they took their boots and socks off between every stop. Watching mom get angry every time she had to redress them never got old. No amount of yelling, lecturing or threats did any good, it had become a game and they were clearly winning.
Then I remembered how effective natural consequences were, so I waited for a day with some fresh fallen snow. When we got home, I unbuckled those little gangsters out of their car seats, lifted them out and plunked them down into the snow.
“Now walk to the door,” I told them. “All the way to the door.”
You know, I only did that once. I only made them walk barefoot from the car to the house in the snow once, and they never took their boots off in the car again. I may be a bad mother, but I won.
Before you have kids, you get this idea of what kind of parent you want to be, then all the circumstances that you prepared for don’t happen. They’re replaced with new experiences that you’re not ready for and have no idea how to handle.
I wasn’t prepared to be their sole supporting parent. I wasn’t prepared to make all the parenting decisions alone for the last ten years, and I certainly wasn’t prepared to simply sit on their bed beside them and just listen, tears streaming down my face, knowing that there was nothing I could do to relieve their pain but sit with them.
They taught me the importance of stepping back and trusting them. They had to make their own mistakes and learn from the consequences, the same way I did. They also taught me that I could ruin them with my own fears.
Through it all, my kids have taught me joy, acceptance and happiness. They taught me about resiliency, trust, and appreciation and how to truly love unconditionally.
My kids have taught me more about myself than I would have learned in any other way. So, on this Mother’s Day, I want to thank my kids, because without them, I would not be a mother, their mother. Without their love, guidance and laughter, I would not be half the person I am today. For that, I thank them. Happy Mother’s Day, kids!