I appreciate those muscled, highly-disciplined Olympian athletes – I mean, if I actually had a TV and time to watch the Olympics, I might.
But I can’t help wanting to give gold medals to, say, my friend, Kati, who, when her 4-year-old son rages at her, turns herself into the human equivalent of a padded envelope: a safe, neutral place to contain all his emotions. A gold medal goes to another friend, who is exercising grace, courage and tremendous compassion for her son, who – at 5 – feels certain that inside he is a girl. There is no amount of training, preparation or discipline that ever prepares us for the curveballs of our children. And yet, at our best, we meet these challenges with love and a willingness to grow into the parents our children need.
Here’s the top categories of the Parenting Olympics; medals for everybody:
1) Wringing three meals a day (plus snacks) out of an empty pantry after day No. 4 of needing desperately to go food shopping.
2) Changing a toddler’s blueberry-storm of a diaper while pregnant (gag) in the first trimester.
3) Playing game VIIXXV of Candyland with a smile while your brain is oozing out of your ears and puddling onto the floor.
4) Keeping track of everyone’s nighttime lovies with the fervor of secret service.
5) Explaining sex, death and menstruation to curious little people in terms they can digest.
6) Being the receptacle for any and all of your child’s bodily fluids at one time or another.
7) Serving vegetables – new vegetables, preciously cut vegetables, your own garden vegetables – every night, despite knowing your kids just want to stuff their face with white carbohydrates.
8) Scraping your body off the floor when you’re depressed, sick, grieving, miscarrying, under stress and tired as the walking dead, to care for your children.
9) Forfeiting a romantic encounter to put someone back to bed, again. Becoming a high-demand relationship counselor, with nothing more than on-the-job training, to referee, break up and debrief fights among siblings.
10) Managing irrational fears, like worrying that because your 7-year-old isn’t interested in reading, that he’ll still be sounding out two-syllable words at 40.
11) Knowing that your impetuous 2-year-old, limit-pushing 4-year-old, defiant 7-year-old, sassy 12-year-old and law-breaking 17-year-old is the same precious, innocent newborn you once gazed at, besotted out of your sleep-deprived head, needing as much unconditional love from you now as in those beginning days.
12) Becoming the ultimate shape-shifter to continually meet the evolving needs of your child.
As novelist Sloan Wilson said: “The hardest part of raising children is teaching them to ride bicycles ... a shaky child on a bicycle for the first time needs both support and freedom. The realization that this is what the child will always need can hit hard.”
Reach Rachel Turiel at firstname.lastname@example.org.Visit her blog, 6512 and growing, on raising children, chickens and other messy, rewarding endeavors at 6,512 feet.