The Long Game of Parenting

Woman in front hallway fixing young girl's hair and smilingWhen you are a new parent and reside in the land of endless night feeds and constant diaper changes, you’re told it get’s easier. “Don’t worry, this time goes quickly, you’ll get through it.” The truth is it does and it doesn’t. Get easier, I mean.

Yes, babies become more predictable and gradually more independent. Toddlers become potty-trained and carseats become a thing of the past. One day you realize that no one needs your help to put socks on or reach the tap. The constant need to be “on” subsides, but parenting does not get easier. It changes. The little baby who relied on you for all his basic needs grows into a semi-independent toddler and then a full-fledge kid, capable of wreaking havoc in a whole new way. Suddenly your one-moment-ago-newborn is talking back and giving attitude. It begins when he learns the word “no” and ends when… I’ll let you know when (if?) it ends.

One of the most difficult things for me as a parent of no-longer-babies is the discipline. We are shaping character and it frightens me that I’ll mess it up. Add to that the emotions of my offspring when they must face the consequences of their actions and I just want to hide and call my mom. “But it’s not fair, I said I was sorry.” Oh, son, if you only knew… 

You have no idea how sad I am when I tell you “no dessert because you made poor choices at dinner”. It breaks my heart to put away a favourite toy because you threw it in anger. When we cancel movie night after a tantrum-filled afternoon, I put on a stoic face and calmly hold my ground, but inside I’m barely holding back the tears. I desperately want to take away these unpleasant consequences and see you smile. It would be so much easier to accept your quick apology and give you a second/third/fourth chance. I know your tears and disappointment are heartfelt and it wounds me. We love you, but we refuse to take the easy way and instead look ahead to the man we long for you to become. We are in this for the long game.

Every “no” builds character. Every time we hold you accountable for your actions you learn integrity. By requiring you to own your choices you grow in responsibility and empathy. These are hard lessons for all of us. It is hard for me to be consistent. It is hard for me not to cave when your lip quivers. And it is so hard not to back down when I sense your remorse. But my son, we love you. Our wish is always for your happiness, but not at any cost. More than happiness we wish big things for you:

Contentment 

Self-worth 

Honour 

Generosity 

Self-control 

Respect 

Compassion 

Kindness 

And we know that those things are achieved when we are willing to make the hard choices. Because by saying “no” and standing by our word – even when it hurts, we are saying we believe in you. We believe in you.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Oh, man! That lip quiver! Last night my son–my bawling son–told me, “You’re making my whole heart break.”

    Oh M my G. That hurt. But, I’m his parent, and I can’t cave, because I’m growing a man.

    Great read, thanks!

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