Happy "New" Year Parents.
September is around the corner and for many parents that feels like the start of a New Year, a time with a refreshing return to routines and hopes for a good year ahead. I just spent two days helping my younger child and a nephew settle back into their university homes for another year. We cleaned (oh my goodness that was bad), shopped, and laughed. The boys' booming voices spoke of things entirely unfamiliar to me and completely understandable to them. It was a busy, noisy, joyous time.
Now at home, with morning quiet and my cup of coffee, I have been reflecting on my parenting journey. The busiest days of my parenting career are behind me, and I have just enough emotional distance between now and then that I can reflect on what I have done well and what I might do differently.
If I could do it all over again (and I would in a heartbeat!) I would let my kids struggle a little more. Not horrible, debilitating struggles, but a little more wrestling with disappointments, mistakes, and dropped balls would have built confidence in a way that motherly reassurance can’t.
I would have encouraged more risk-taking. Risks that didn’t have life and death consequences, but calculated risks where my kids could experience deep frustration with or great pride in their efforts, owning both failure and success.
And, I would have pushed harder for them to learn to drive at 16.
One of the best things I did as a parent was talk with my kids, a lot. We talked about almost anything, and sometimes as they got older about things, I wasn’t sure I wanted to know. Of course, raising talkers means I had (and have) to practice being a curious and patient listener. It wasn’t always convenient or interesting; I recall listening to lengthy lectures on the abilities and evolutions of Pokémon characters and on the talents and styles of each member of BTS. However, it has been wonderful to know my kids' experience of the world.
During the teenage years, I was concerned about what my kids were up to and how they were coping. As we chatted, often in the car, I knew we were connected enough that we could navigate what might come and that they trusted me to support them.
Raising children is a demanding, worrying, thrilling ride. Parents are always balancing the need (and desire) to stay connected while continually letting go. Maybe I could have let go a little more, a little sooner, but as I look at the two delightful humans I have raised, I believe more often than not, I got the balance just where it needed to be.
To all the parents planning for the “new” year ahead, my hope is that more often than not, you find the right balance for you and your kids.
* Photo used with my kids' permission. This is a personal essay and my use of personal pronouns does not diminish the other loving parents, relatives, and caregivers who were essential to raising these kids.