Monday, August 17, 2015

Two Truths for all Types of Parents

No matter your parenting situation, some truths are universal. Single parents, mixed families, foster parents, adoptive parents, grandparents acting as parents, LGBT parents, parents on assistance, parents with yachts and mansions, suburban parents, city parents, teen parents, first-timers, and plenty-of-timers. For anyone who loves and cares for a child, at least two things are true.

You are tired.

You have an infant, and she sleeps in two-hour intervals that do not correlate to your adult slumber rhythms. Or your 3-year-old developed night terrors and nothing you do convinces him the toy dinosaur isn't terrorizing the room come midnight. Or your elementary-aged child had her first friend fight, and no one is sleeping until the entire drama is analyzed, cried over, and analyzed one more time for good measure.  Or your teen is out and about, driving at night for the first time.

Or absolutely nothing is wrong at this exact moment, but the worry of all the things that could be wrong make sleep elusive. Go ahead—tip toe down the hall and hold your ear to their slumbering mouths to make sure they're breathing. You won't sleep until you do.

It's hard to get quality and consistent sleep when your heart is constantly racing, breaking, and bursting for your kids. Seven to eight hours of shut eye don't happen when your brain is constantly replaying the day, wondering if you did good or if you've ruined your children for life with some little mishap or foible. And if your parental worry wasn't enough, all the caffeine you chugged just to keep up with your kids all day isn't helping.

The only good news is that some nights are easy. Cherish the easy nights: turn off the television, put on your most comfortable sleepwear, and slide between the sheets for a few extra minutes. You'll probably need them tomorrow.

You are doing the best you can.

Parents are comparers. We look to what other people are doing in this sea of childrearing to validate what's going on in our own little lifeboat. Even if you don't think you do it, you probably do. Even if you are confident in yourself and your parenting, you can't shutter your eyes to what's going on around you and it is part of the human condition to make comparisons. And now, you can see what is going on with hundreds of parents on a daily basis via social media.

Except, we all know the stream of videos, statuses, and pictures we see doesn't tell the entire story. You aren't going to see all the toddler tantrums, teacher's notes, poor grades, and exacerbated shouting. You get Instagram pics of the one evening mom or dad was able to get it together enough to make a full-course meal. You don't get pics of the time dinner was cold cereal or ice cream—whatever the 9-year-old decided to serve her younger siblings—because mom simply just couldn't do anything else that day.

The truth is, if you love your children, you are probably doing the best you possibly can in the moment. So are all the other parents and parental figures who love their children. And every single one of them has those days. You know the ones: The day that ends in tears or aches or overeating or over drinking or just collapsing onto the nearest flat surface that doesn't have food or dirty dishes or an open marker on it. Even the parents who seem on top it have these days. In fact, for some of those parents, every day is that day.

The good news is that you almost never do as terrible a job as you think. And if you are genuinely trying and you genuinely show love to your kids, then you are doing important stuff. Sometimes, it is all you can do to make sure they have food in their bellies and clothes on their backs.

Some days, you just don't have it in you to check their homework and put all the food groups on a plate and read them an intelligent-sounding book before bed.

And that's okay.

Don't stay up fretting about what you didn't do today. Get some rest—you have a big day tomorrow trying to figure out more of this parenting thing.