By the time I reached the seventh grade, my parents took one look at my hormonal rages and fights with homework and said something the changed my life.
You know you want to go to college. You know what that will take. It’s your responsibility to get there.
Wait. You mean no more fights? No more battle of wills? Yes. Please and thank you.
It worked. I took ownership, and I ran.
And Daddy packed my lunch every day until I graduated high school.
I fought my way into honors classes after starting at the bottom my freshman year of high school.
Momma made sure laundry was done. (But we all chipped in when we could.)
I filled out all my own college applications and scholarships, research included.
I didn’t pay for my own gas, and I wasn’t required to get a job.
I was editor of my high school yearbook, in student government, and involved in numerous other activities that required responsibility and hard work.
And Daddy packed my lunch every day. And Momma woke me up every morning.
Every now and then I get sucked into the Internet vortex. And if I’m especially vulnerable I can even find myself clicking on articles that only ever feed on my inadequacies as a parent.
When I was in the throws of early motherhood I read articles that listed all the feats my baby should be able to scale by 12 months old. And then each year after.
And when my kiddos missed the target? Angst and worries.
There was the breastfeeding nightmare that was my son and all the lists of ten thousand reasons he wouldn’t be as smart as the next kid if he never nursed. He never did. But at two, I knew he was smarter than I was. Don’t tell him I said that. Like ever.
My Ella-girl’s entrance into kindergarten had me tied in knots. Because this was the year she would learn to read. All the lists said so. But first grade held her magical reading card-trick.
And recently? There are these lists of things my teenager should be doing on her own. By now. Already. And she’s not. Lists that tell me she’s not responsible enough because she doesn’t measure up to the items requiring a check.
Come close, dear friends.
Those lists? With all of their expectations? Their comparisons?
Yeah. Because I know this—every kid is different, every family is different, every parent is different. No list can magically ensure your child grows into a responsible member of society.
My Ella? Prince Charming packs her lunch (and mine), and we still tuck her in with whispered prayers and kisses goodnight. She doesn’t fill-out her own forms. But she does have her own bank account and wakes herself up with an alarm every morning. She has chores and responsibilities.
I could make a list. But it would be her list. Our list.
Oh, friends. It’s one thing to share with each other the ways we instill values into our children. It’s important to have milestone markers as checks and balances for growth. It’s vital for doctors to have guidelines to determine the health of our children.
It’s a tragedy when we place a checklist in front of another parent and silently yell, measure up.
Sometimes I feel so caught up and tangled in lines drawn and score cards to be filled out. Parenting was never meant to be a checklist, a measuring stick, a way to bludgeon one another.
None of us want to raise entitled hellions.
None of us want to raise bullies.
None of us want to raise lazy, society-sucking adults.
Nope. We don’t.
Instead of listing should’s, maybe a guide of help’s. It’s semantics, I know. But semantics matter.
Words lift up or they break down. And parenting checklists?
They break down.
We must learn to look at one another and the children we lead with grace. We can’t expect another family to teach values and responsibilities and morals in the exact same way we teach those same ideals.
My parenting list? It might look something like this:
- Pray for wisdom. All the time.
- Seek the counsel of those with grounded kids.
- Stop reading the checklists that make you feel less than.
- Look other parents in the eye and tell them they’re amazing.
- Pray for wisdom. All the time.
And finally? Know you’re not alone. Know there is no perfect child. Know you’re a good mom. Know your kids are blessed to have you.
Know the lists that make you twitch? They don’t know your family the way you do.
So roll your eyes, stop twitching, and tell another mom she’s awesome.
Because we were never meant to swallow the bitter pill of comparison.