Better late than never

Oh, how I wished someone would have given me instructions on how to raise children. My children are grown now but I had a difficult time as a single mother. I’m very proud of my kids but I sometimes wonder if there was something I could have done different. 

Being a single parent was a challenge.  Just getting through the grocery store without anyone having a meltdown was a miracle.  I became an expert at finding anything, from lost shoes to library books. I learned how to fix anything, just because I had to.  I became creative in the kitchen and could make a meal out of whatever I happened to have in the kitchen (and it was good!)   

But I had a tough time disciplining my children. I sought advice from my mother and my sisters on how to be a better parent. Though I knew they were trying to help, it all sounded very contradictory.

“Give time outs, just say no, don’t let them control you, give them more freedom, don’t give them more freedom, spankings are necessary, never spank a child…”

Ok, I can handle one at a time, but what do I do when they all gang up on me? I could handle their insistent whines and demands, but I became overwhelmed when they all joined in.  I think they planned it that way because my youngest daughter recently told me, “Yeah, we knew if we bugged you long enough, you’d give in.” If I would have known then what I know now … In the end, I just did what I thought was right.

 Some days I wanted to pull my hair out. Some days I wanted to run away.  But most days, I just prayed that they would hurry and grow up. The teenage years were the worst, having to deal with boyfriends and broken hearts, sneaking out and staying out past curfew. But I did survive and can breathe a sigh of relief.

My grandchildren are so much more fun.  The time I spend with them brings me so much joy.  We play together and it makes me feel like a kid again.  I had forgotten how much fun blowing bubbles is or how good it feels to hold a child while they fall asleep. I had forgotten how important it is to take the time to enjoy the little lives we have created.

My three daughters don’t ask for too much advice and I try not to butt in. If I see something going on that I think they need help with, I will tell them how I handled the situation and how I learned from it.  My 2-year-old granddaughter was giving her mother problems one day and Lori called me, clearly going out of her mind with Lily’s stubbornness.  “She won’t listen, she wants to fight about everything!” 

 I couldn’t help but smile, remembering how I went though the same thing with her. But this time I knew what to do.  “Lori, she’s 2. That’s what 2-year-olds do. Pick your battles. Learn which ones are important and which ones don’t matter much. Let her pick out her own clothes if that is what she wants to do. So what if they don’t match; what will it matter in a week or a month or a year?”  I could tell she was thinking about it, but all she could say was, “I don’t know what I’m going to do.”

Did I act that way when someone gave me sound advice?  Maybe I didn’t think it was worth listening to.  I kind of wish I listened more when someone told me how fast time flies, and that someday I’ll find myself wishing I could do it over.

I hear people say all the time how grandchildren are parent’s reward for not killing their kids.  It’s meant to be a joke, and it’s a bit drastic, but it’s true.  Grandchildren are our reward for enduring all the pain and heartache of being a parent. We didn’t have a set of instructions we could refer to when we had doubts about raising our children.  We had to pretty much ‘wing it’.  If we had more than one, we were lucky, because that meant we had another chance.

I have learned so much from my children, not just about being a parent but about life, too. With my grandchildren, I’m not learning anymore, I’m rediscovering; they help me remember what I felt when my children were little and I had the time to enjoy them.  Too bad life gets so hectic and we forget how important that is.

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