You may remember the beginning of your parenting journey. It went something like this …
Nine months after conception, give or take, you left the hospital with your new baby, a smartphone filled with new parenting pics, and the enthusiasm of a naïve superhero looking forward to what life was going to be like as the perfect parents raising the perfect child.
Although optimism is always a good thing, one very important piece of the parenting puzzle is missing and has been since the beginning of time: An owner’s manual.
And since we don’t have one, I thought I’d start the ball rolling with a list of eight parenting myths and their truths to help you along your journey because parenting is UNIVERSAL.
Parenting Myth #1: You’ll be perfect and always “know” what to do.
The Truth: This is bull. All moms screw up. And in all the ways.
While new parents enter their role with visions of sugarplums and everything nice, there will be times when you will yell. There will be days when your alarm fails and you let your children eat dried Fruit Loops for breakfast in the car as you rush to get them to school on time. You’ll even swear out loud. And you know what? None of this will cause your children to grow up and be serial killers. Here’s the thing: You are human and as a human, it’s not in your job description to be perfect. Also, kids are resilient. Even on your worst days, when everything seems to be going wrong AT THE EXACT SAME TIME, the end of the day will come and bring with it bedtime. Tuck the day in with a loving word and ALL WILL BE GOOD IN THE WORLD. Tomorrow is another day.
Parenting Myth #2: Your children – ALL children – are perfect, loving humans.
The Truth: There will be days when you don’t particularly like your offspring.
As I write this, I can hear the gasps. “Wait! What? I won’t like my own kid? That’s just WRONG.” Trust me when I say that I’m not making this up. Even though they are under your care, kids are humans and humans of all heights and stages of teeth development have bad days. Toddlers have temper tantrums in the cereal aisle and strangers will sneak glances at you as they walk by. You’ll feel exasperated. You’ll feel incompetent. You’ll feel judged. Oh, but wait! There’s more. Then, during their teen years, you’ll get to experience another kind of dislike. It’s the same child, only now hijacked by hormones. Once again, you’ll feel exasperated, incompetent, and judged. Who IS this person??? What happened to my sweet child? Yes, there will be days when you will dislike your child but more than that, you’ll dislike yourself because no matter how hard you work at instilling good values and thoughtful politeness, everything will feel broken. The good news is that ‘like’ and ‘love’ are two separate emotions. And while not all moments will be Instagram-worthy, you can rest assured that love will win and be the bond that keeps you from running away from home.
Parenting Myth #3: Despite their tantrums, your children will ALWAYS love you.
The Truth: Sometimes your children will scream how much they hate you. And mean it.
This one will hurt. From toddler to teenager, the words will blurt out of their mouths like daggers and you’ll see it in their eyes. Words of painful truth. It will keep you up at night. “What did I do wrong? … Maybe I should have … could have …” Then just as suddenly as their words made your ears bleed, your loving bundle of what-happened will quiet down and life will go on with moments filled with “I love you” and hugs. And then they’ll hate you again and all you can do is practice quiet patience and wait for their return. It’s awesome.
Parenting Myth #4: You will want to spend every second with your child because you simply can’t get enough of them.
The Truth: Taking time for yourself does not make you a bad parent.
There’s something oddly strange about becoming a parent that infuses us with an overpowering sixth sense: a sense of guilt. The truth is that doing something for yourself makes you a happier person, in turn, a better parent. You know the pre-flight safety drill when the flight attendant tells you that in the unlikely event of a crash (they don’t use the word “crash” but that’s what they mean), you’re to put the oxygen mask on yourself FIRST? This is also a good overall approach to everyday life. Go jogging. Read. Take a yoga class. Eat chocolate. End the day watching your favourite Netflix series. If something falls behind (laundry comes to mind), so what? The important thing is to make time for you. Yes, you’re a parent. And that’s perhaps the most important role you’ll ever play in another human’s life. But before that you are an INDIVIDUAL who needs a break sometimes.
Parenting Myth #5: Parenting is EASY. You’ll be great at it from Day One.
The Truth: LMFAO!!!
Life can be a nasty bitch. Sometimes She will delight in serving you a plate of crap. You’ll want to pull the covers over your head and hide. Forever. And you can do that for a short time (although this is a great time to get to that laundry you’re behind on). But eventually you’ll have to get up and confront the obstacle like a trooper (or like a parent). The good news is that life is made up of a continuous stream of ups and downs. The bad news is that life is made up of a continuous stream of ups and downs. Enjoy the good moments and know that the bad is just as temporary as the good. (Possibly life was designed that way to keep us from taking things for granted. Just a theory I have.)
Parenting Myth #6: Sometimes you’ll wonder if you’re even cut out to be a parent.
The Truth: Just when you think you’re doing everything wrong, your kids will do something kind and you’ll realize that some things stick.
As parents, we give a lot to our kids. We give them our time, our values and our integrity. We repeat ourselves. We try to teach by example. And let’s face it, it’s exhausting. Sometimes it feels like we’re speaking to the walls. Then one day something happens, our child says or does something and we immediately recognize it as something we’ve been trying to teach them. Suddenly, the 50 trillion cells that make up your body will all rise to give you a standing ovation. You’ll realize that everything you’ve been giving away has gone towards a good cause: your kid.
Parenting Myth #7: As parents, we must give our kids everything and do everything for them.
The Truth: Worst idea EVER.
It’s true. While we never want our kids to lack, and we consider it our jobs to make sure that they’re happy – all the time – sometimes a little “tough love” is needed. Otherwise, we’re raising a society of spoiled, lazy brats who think that the world revolves around them. Sometimes we really do have to be “the bad guy”.
Parenting Myth #8: Our children will be young and ours forever.
The Truth: One day our children will be grown and gone.
One day they’re arguing with you about the clothes they’re wearing. “Awwww, BUT MOM!” *sound of door slamming* and the next day you’ll be longing for the days when they were still little and asking for a bedtime story. The truth of the matter is that we do not “own” our kids. We lease them for a while and then they leave taking our teachings and values with them. Perhaps this is the scariest part of parenting, the part when we must let go.
And yet, the umbilical cord never really gets cut.
There aren’t a lot of things in this world that come with forever-shackles but being a parent certainly does. Whether your kids are 5, 15, or 50, you will always be their parent. They will always need you. Their independence will change your relationship but not the role we play in their lives. As parents, bravery and conviction are the tools that help us forge through the challenges. At the same time, we need to embrace our naivety. Parenting is a scary role. The monster that hides under our beds is often our own self-critical selves. We try to be perfect. We strive to be everything. And yet we are not perfect. We can’t be everything. And perhaps that’s the biggest parenting myth of all.
The truth: That’s okay.