Greetings parents of small humans! I come to you from a faraway galaxy known as Grown Children. I’ve been where you’ve been, walked in your shoes and toiled in the trenches. Now I’ve come out the other side and bring words of comfort and encouragement. Or, maybe just some stuff that might help you chill.
My girls are now 18 and 20, and that light at the end of the parenting tunnel is a full-on headlight in my face. I’m getting to see the people they’ve become, and the results of the choices we made (by the way, I like what I see). It’s also given me perspective on the things that I stressed out about—which, in hindsight, were a little loopy and unnecessary.
Here are a few things that might be keeping you up at night (or tearing your hair out by day) that you can start relaxing about:
1. If she doesn’t finish her dinner, I’ll lose this battle and all future battles, and she’ll end up always having her way and become a terrible, spoiled person who’ll never get a decent job.
Mealtime can become such a battleground between parents and kids, but sometimes an unfinished sandwich is just an unfinished sandwich. I can’t tell you how many hours I spent trying to get my older daughter to eat that last piece of [fill-in-the-blank] and sometimes she did, and sometimes she didn’t. I can tell you that I gave up on the fight by the time my second daughter came along, and they both turned into healthy, well-nourished humans who eat whatever is put in front of them. And, since the issue of that unfinished chicken nugget back in '99 never came up in job interviews, both kids are now both gainfully employed.
2. I’m certain that if she wears those shorts outside in the rain, she’ll catch a cold that will turn into pneumonia and she'll end up in the ER and ultimately secure me a spot in the Awful Moms Club.
I’m a bit of a hypochondriac, so this was always on my mind. Even though science says that you don’t catch a cold from being cold, I always equated shorts/skirts/short sleeves with some sort of evil catalyst that would land my kid in the hospital battling a rare virus. And always in the back of my mind, the whole terrible situation would have been caused by my failure to get her to put on a sweater.
But it never happened, even when they would come home soaking wet after a rain storm or shivering when they wore a crop top to a concert in December. I do still tell them to put on a sweater, though.
But, before you call CPS, I can tell you they turned out fine—and even thrived—with our crazy schedules.
3. If she watches one more hour of TV, it’ll be bad for her development and her entire brain and lead to problems in school and she’ll never get into a good college.
True story: A neighbor wasn’t feeling well, so I invited her daughter over for a playdate to give her time to rest. I told her that I was about to let my girls watch a video of "The Nutcracker." She became visibly bothered and told me that her kid wasn’t allowed to have more than 15 minutes of TV at a time, so she’d appreciate it if I stopped the video after 15 minutes and found some other way to entertain them. I might have suggested that she’d feel better if she unwound some parts of herself.
We can all agree that there is such a thing as too much screen time. But stressing over that extra 30 minutes after school or when maybe when someone is doing you a favor, is probably counterproductive. Also, my girls watched that entire damn video and they still got into really good colleges, so there.
4. If they don’t get this part in the school play they’ll be devastated and won’t ever realize their dreams and their lives will be RUINED—RUINED, I TELL YOU.
Failure in anything may very well be devastating—at least for the time being. But it can also lead to growth and to opening themselves up to other opportunities. I’ve had to witness many, many tearful moments when my girls were rejected for parts in plays, slots in schools, spots in groups. But they survived, and I’d say more times than not, those rejections lead to them seeking out other activities or leads. I’m going to get really cliché here and say these could be “teachable moments.” Even more cliché, they learned a lot from these experiences. Lastly, no lives were ruined by missing out on the part of the sassy fairy in the school play.
5. If he doesn’t go to sleep now, his entire schedule will be thrown off and will impact all schedules for eternity and will result in him being unscheduled and unpredictable and unstable, and now I’m planning how I’ll visit him in prison.
You know those parents who would never miss a nap and whose kids go to bed at 7 p.m. sharp? Yeah, we were never those parents. We’re both creatives and never ran on a normal schedule and as hard as we tried, could never adhere to any type of fixed timeline with our kids, either. So we just ran with it, and took our toddlers out to dinner with us at 9 p.m. so we could eat together, and skipped naps because we were in line for a movie.
But, before you call CPS, I can tell you they turned out fine—and even thrived—with our crazy schedules. It made them more flexible to different situations and may have even made it easier for them to adapt to things happening around them as adolescents and now adults. They've never spent a day in prison, although I do sometimes still put dinner on the table at 10 p.m.
Whatever it is you're obsessing about, I can now tell you, from the other end of the parenting tunnel, that they're going to be just fine.