When you become a parent, the hospital nurses on the maternity floor give your darling new baby a bath or two, physically check the backseat of your car to make sure that you have the car seat locked in correctly, and then send you on your merry way.
The nurses don’t give you an instructions book, nor do they tell you what you should do when you get home. They leave you to your own devices. Of course, five minutes into your new life, your perfect little angel changes into Satan’s spawn, spewing projectile vomit down your shirt. Those helpful nurses, with their notepads and seemingly endless bits of wisdom, are long gone. You’re on your own.
Or how about when your little angel, now aged five, stomps her feet, scrunches up her hands into little fists and says to you that she hates your guts and hopes you die. Okay, maybe the little urchin didn’t quite phrase it like that, but you can’t help but think to yourself that her intent wasn’t far off. What are you supposed to do then? Where are the nurse then to hold your hand and tell you that the tough times will pass and everything will be alright in the end?
Or even later when your now grown angel is choosing colleges and wants to know your opinion. You’ve been waiting for this moment for months: for her to come to you for advice. But you falter. Do you give your honest opinion or is this really a test? Is she just testing you so that she can turn around and pick the exact opposite choice? Your head explodes trying to read the tea leaves and figure out the right answer.
It’s not just girls, it was the same way with our oldest son and now for our youngest. We walked out of the hospital confident and assured of ourselves that we could handle things on our own and within minutes we were stumbling over ourselves, minimized to tears.
Oh, there’s so many things those wonderful, resourceful nurses failed to tell us. I could write a book on all the items, and, maybe one day, I will. In the meantime, I chalk this blog up as the latest installment in what they failed to tell us about parenting.
A parent’s instructional guide
The list would have any number of items, but certainly the top five items would have to include the fact that you learn more from your kids, then they’ll ever learn from you. Let me repeat that again: You, as a parent, learn more from your kids, then they’ll ever learn from you.
The list of things I’ve learned from my kids is long and seems to run forever, everything from music and movies to pop culture and technology. Here’s one example in particular: When I went to high school, I studied Biology, Chemistry, Physics and I thought I understood protons and neutrons but I didn’t really understand them until my son out the blue a month or two ago explained to my wife and I the science behind the atom. The same with how a cell is formed. One day on the way home from practice, my wife asked our son what his Biology class was studying. She asked a simple question, in return, she got a college level lecture on the formation of the cell. When he repeated the lecture the next day for me, I stood wide eyed in our kitchen in awe.
Oh, my wife and I tried to act all calm and cool. I think I even joked with him about how you don’t really know something, until you have to teach it to someone else. Meanwhile, my head was spinning, thinking to myself, “Wow, it all makes sense now.”
Back to school
I wish I could say that this was a one-off, but I’ve learned much over the years from my kids. Here’s two more quick examples:
–My daughter and oldest son have set challenging goals for themselves serving in the Peace Corps and U.S. Armed Forces respectively. I was faced with a work challenge recently and I considered taking the easy way out and it hit me: How can I do that when they both have set challenging goals for themselves? Why am I not challenging myself like they’re challenging themselves? Of course, I got back up on the horse and went right back to work.
–When I was young like my youngest son, I worked and saved up my money so that I could dress in the latest styles. My son tries to do the same thing, but he’s got an inner confidence that I never had. He wore something the other day that I thought might set him apart negatively from the rest of his friends. I thought he might even get picked on or bullied. When I asked him about it after the fact, he laughed. He scoffed at the notion. He has confidence to be himself, not what others want him to be. I couldn’t help but think to myself, “I wish I was more like you at the same age.”
Yes, I’ve learned much from my kids over the years. I suspect I’ve learned more from them, then they’ve learned from me. Despite it all, I sure wish those hospital nurses would have given us a user’s manual or guide. In the meantime, I continue to work on this “parenting thing.” My hope is that one of these days — maybe in another ten or twenty years — I’ll get it right.
Keep on, keeping on.