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...over-educated and under-experienced, or so they say...

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Parenting Is An Art

Parenting is an art.

That thought occupied my mind on the drive to work this morning.

I was thinking about how difficult this 12th year has been compared to others.  I was thinking about how Hope is stepping into another phase, how things that were never distractions are suddenly the worst of distractions; how certain battles I never had to choose are somehow choosing me; how suddenly there is a world of emotion wrapped up in her that was never there before and it demands my awareness.  I was blessed to have a smooth ride for a while, but now is a moment of ingenuity, of tapping into who I was at her age and remembering how that felt and finding a way to get my point across in a way that hits home with her and makes her think instead of shut me down.  And it's a time of self-awareness just as much as it is awareness of her.

We had an episode this morning, as well as an episode last week, that were very similar to the little brown houses and green dots scenario.  The difference this time around was that there wasn't a fix quite as simple and, given that this has been a pattern of behavior lately, she got quite a powerful spanking with words from me this morning, in addition to the promise of a serious grounding should she not be able to find a way to fix the problem she created for herself.  The part that I really hate about moments like these is that: a) I truly HATE the discipline part of parenting, but I learned years ago that I didn't have the privilege of passing the buck and saying something like, "Just wait until your father gets home!"  I had to learn to be the rod because no one else was going to do it for me.  I had to believe with every ounce of my being that, as much as I love this child and as much as I love to dote on her and make her smile, she isn't my pet, she's not something I get to keep as a companion, she's a human being that I have to somehow teach to grow up and become a positive contributor to what we call society.  And so... disciplinarian I must be.  b) Hope HATES to be in trouble -- she hates to disappoint.  This factor alone will bring the girl to a fit of tears and self-loathing that breaks my heart.  c) The girl has this terrible habit of confessing her fears and wrong doings to me right before we leave for school and work, and I HATE having rough conversations that send her to tears first thing in the morning.  ugh...

So... we had our moment this morning before we left the house, and she was in tears all the way down to the car.  I finally looked at her and said something like, "Baby girl... can you please start having these conversations with me when we get home from school and work instead of on the way to school and work?"  She chuckled a little bit and made a joke about her bad timing and I followed it up with something like, "Look, I hate getting on your case.  If I had my way you'd have it all together at all times and I'd never have to say a word and we could just dwell in perfect harmony together, but that isn't how it works.  You're 12, you're going to make mistakes, you're going to get distracted by boys and music and friends and whatever it is that's distracting you, and because I've already been down that road it's my job to take your head and put it back on straight.  But damn it, Hope... I hate having to do that.  And what I want to know is,  would you be crying tomorrow if you hadn't told me about it and the teacher confronted you with it instead? If I weren't here, would you still have this moment where you were upset with your own performance or would you just go about your business and not care?  If I weren't here, would you still care about any of this?"  She looked at me and said, "Mom, I'm crying because I do care.  I am upset with myself because I know I'm better than this.  And if you weren't here, I'd probably cry even harder because at least when you're here I know I have someone that cares enough to help me figure this out and I'm not alone."

I drove away thinking about how much I hate starting off my morning with moments like those.  I drove away wondering if I'd handled it right.  I drove away remembering moments of when I screwed up at 12 and how stupid I was at times.  I drove away hearing echos of my dad in my head.  I drove away hearing him tell  me, "There's no book that tells a parent how to do this, Pandora.  There's no manual.  There's no expert.  You get one shot, and one shot only, and you're not going to be perfect.  But you can always remember this: you love your child and your child loves you.  And if your child grows up knowing that they were truly loved by their parent, you did something right."

And then I thought about the moment he told me that, and I thought about how I still call him when I need some guidance, and I thought about how he helps me parent because he's probably looking back on things he would've done differently in the same way I'm looking back now.  And suddenly I started thinking about all of it as a perfecting of some kind of art.

For the true artist, there really is no manual that tells them how to create their art, they just do it.  And sometimes they look at what they created and know they could've done better, so the next time around they use a different stroke, a different angle, a different view.  This isn't to say Hope is my specific work of art, but it is to say that if my goal is to raise her with a foundation of confidence and strength and character and honor and her own set of dreams to chase in the future, then the act of raising is definitely an art and... an artist's work is never truly done.  (just ask my dad... I called him today too...)


  1. That is a beautiful drawing, Pandora. Did you sketch it yourself?

    1. Thank you, Cimmerian. :-)

      Yes, I did sketch that one myself. I took the idea from an actual photo we have here, but that is a result of a pencil in my own hand.

      Much better than the usual stick figure drawings, eh? ;-)

      Thank you for the nice comment.

      ~ Pandora

    2. Wow! I am impressed :-) Yes, this piece is quite a jump up from your usual stick figure illustrations. Although, I am quite fond of the "stickies". They have an endearing, simplistic beauty that engages the imagination. Keep up the good work! I hope to see more Pandora-made renderings of all complexities in the near future :-)