The joy of having kids is that they teach you about growing up as a process.
When we were going through it ourselves, we have no perspective on what’s next. Being a grown up seems like a dream to kids, with all the money, power and respect of a super hero. From an adult’s perspective, being a child seems like a carefree time where everything was pretty much managed for you. It can look pretty sweet from the side of the fence filled with bills, laundry, kids, jobs and more.
As I watch my kids grow and mature, I learn more about myself. I appreciate the absolute joy that can come from the simplest of things again. I learn that sometimes, getting into hot water can seem like the end of the world, and you never know what the consequences will be. I learn that having someone to try to guide your path is great, but there are some mistakes you have to make on your own. I learn that responsibility can be a benefit and a burden, all at once. Sometimes we’re not ready for its heavy weight.
I’ve learned that quite often, we can bite off more than we can chew. Our egos often write checks our bodies and abilities just can’t cash yet. Time will heal a lot of wounds, and experience helps you make better decisions the next time, if you take a moment to reflect.
Mistakes are inevitable, and learning requires trying a lot of different things and failing before success takes hold. Circumstances change, and not all answers are easy and simple. But stretching and taking on something you aren’t entirely confident or certain you can do is the best way to gain more confidence and test your abilities. Playing it safe isn’t always the smartest strategy, but learning how to predict outcomes and when to take that risky leap are things only experience will show us.
I still feel like I’m growing up and learning every day.
Being able to place myself in my kid’s shoes and trying to remember what it was like when you thought no one understood, and no one could help you out of what’s become an embarrassing mess was awful, but it helps me now face problems head on and deal with them before the become unmanageable and overwhelming.
It’s also fantastic to learn to let yourself just live in the moment. Experience joy. Laugh. Do something incredibly silly, even with your teens who think you are being totally immature. Play games. Skip. Forget for a short time that everything is so serious and has to have a grand purpose. Show off. Tell jokes. Giggle. Wear a tiara. Put on a Cape.
As adults, we can forget how important hope and dreams can be. When your whole life seems to be ahead of you, those dreams are what keeps us moving forward, and keep us going even when it seems like people who are 20 or 30 or older are as old as the Earth itself. The tough part comes when you are 30 or 40 or older, and the new dream, the new hope, the new goal seems hard or impossible or that the opportunity has simply passed you by, and we give up on what we want and start settling for what’s easy and convenient instead.
Being a parent helps me remember how special life is and how lucky I am. When I watch my boys come into their own, I feel unbounded joy that I made these terrific people with stuff we had laying around the house. No matter how many times I’ve screwed up and been insensitive or harsh or demanding or simply self-absorbed, the big picture is that kids and people are resilient. The good does outweigh the bad. They learn most of the good stuff, and while they may repeat some of your mistakes, most of the ones they’ll make are their own, and will teach them what they most need to know first hand. You can’t protect them, even with giant rolls of bubble wrap, but you can give them enough skills, practice and confidence to try and often succeed, and surprise you with how well they can fly on their own, without your help.
My kids may be growing up, but what they are also teaching me is how to be a good Grown Up in the process.
by Whitney Hoffman
Photo graciously provided by aussiegall, through a Creative Commons license, some rights reserved