Of course, I always knew there was no actual parenting manual. I guess I just thought that if I had kids, I’d know what to do with them. That this information would just appear in my head.
Unfortunately, like so many other Adult Things (cooking, buying a house, marriage, fixing stuff), parenting is just winging it. That’s right, my childless friends: everyday, I’m just waking up and guessing at everything. Some stuff you figure out pretty quickly. For example, it’s pretty much always a bad idea to let your kid stay up super late on a school night. Don’t feed them junk food all day, everyday. Probably avoid letting them play with knives and matches. Teach them how to use the washing machine as soon as they can reach the buttons. Force them to drink water, change their underwear, and brush their teeth occasionally. Hose them down every so often.
Some stuff is harder. How do you teach your kids to deal with bullies? How do you answer some of the difficult questions they ask about divorce, poverty, war, racism, in an age-appropriate way that won’t give them nightmares? How do you help them feel at peace with themselves? And when should you give them a little push out of their comfort zone? Should you ever do this?
I forced Budsie to take skating and piano lessons, join Beavers, and go to swimming. With each activity, he said he didn’t want to, he hated everything, he just wanted to stay home. He now LOVES 3/4 of those activities (he really hates swimming). And a few weeks ago, I forced him to audition for the Variety Show at his school. He said he hated me, that everything was the worst. But then he got in the show, performed his magic ball trick in front of his entire school, and had an awesome time. He loved the attention, loved the clapping, loved it all. Sigh.
Sometimes I feel bad, pushing him into this stuff. He’s not an outgoing kid, more of a thinker than a doer. And sometimes I think I should just leave him be, let him pick what he wants to do. But honestly, if I did that, he’d pick nothing. And whenever he misses out on stuff, he gets upset. Sooooooo…yeah. It’s all about finding balance, reading signals, staying sharp. Gods, it’s all so exhausting.
Seriously, there should really be a manual.