When my kids were little I was exhausted. Having little children is like being in a constant form of boot camp with people who speak a different language and will call you to attention at any time of day or night. Its exhausting both because you don't sleep, but also because it is physically demanding keeping other human beings alive. But it isn't super mentally demanding and in fact can be fairly boring. "Do you want to put your shoes on or do you want me to?" (response: scream). "Do you want to choose or do you want me to choose?" (response: kick and scream) "Ok I'll choose. I"m going to put your shoes on. Do you want your boots or tennis shoes?" (response: "boots") "Ok here we go let's put on your boots. Do you want to walk to the car or have me carry you?" On and on it goes. I raised my kid in choices hoping that the strategy would give them some sense of control and a feeling of being powerful. And while at first it was hard to come up with choices where either choice were authentically an option and that steered them to the place I want them to go...in this case the car; after a while it was routine. So routine that my kids still give me choices to this day.
Now though I span from the kid I still have to give choices about her shoes, to a kid in middle school. While little kids are physically exhausting, I find that my older kids can be emotionally exhausting. I never know what I am going to get when they walk in the door from school. Good day, bad day...they cause sometimes intense emotional reactions which are then brought home. And now rather than figuring out if they want to wear their boots or their sandals I'm helping them navigate relating to other human beings and the pain, anxiety and stress that causes. While they were little I knew most of the other parents of the kids they were relating too...now they are interacting with kids I've never even met.
Yesterday I had two kids in tears after school, two kids with intense headaches, one a tension headache and the other a headache due to some eye issues we are still sorting out. I picked up another kid who was starving and grumpy and my fourth who was home with me all day was mad because now she had to share me. By 330 I had four kids in some sort of mental/emotional and physical distress.
I actually believe in the socializing part of school. Everyone has different theories and I homeschooled my kids for a while. But I think it is important somehow, for kids to learn how to manage and control their brain while they get along with other people's brains. This includes figuring out what to do with the kids whose social skills currently mean they like to stand by the bike rack and pick on other kids. There will always be people who think name calling and belittling others is a valid way to relate. I want my kids to understand themselves and other people's verbal and non verbal cues. I want them to be able to choose to be kind even when others aren't. I want them to know when it is actually smart to avoid a bike rack because the kids there don't do a good job at self control. And I want to know when it is a good time to confront or seek help. But to be honest sometimes I want to just pull them in and keep them from experiencing any pain. Helping them navigate the stress and anxiety of school work, peers and extra curricular activities means extra work on our end as adults. I guess I could take an approach of suck it up and persevere but somehow I'm not sure that helps in the long run. Nor do I think keeping my kids completely isolated is an option. And so we navigate. To be clear, my kids are all at good schools, with amazing teachers in healthy learning environments. Which I realize is not always the case for people. What I'm talking about is "normal" peer/performance stuff maybe exacerbated a little because my kids are still "new".
I am in the process of finishing a small parenting book and I was thinking yesterday how different it would be if I wrote it 5 years ago. Parenting a 5 year old is so different than a 10 year old and I can only imagine that in 5 years parenting a 15 year old will take a whole other set of skills. And at that point I will probably laugh that I thought this was hard! And have to edit this book I'm writing!
Ali Millikan, Author
I love Father, Jesus Christ and Holy Spirit. I love my husband and kids. I believe that God is in the room with us; that hearing God's voice is for everyone and that it will change your day to day reality.