Parentlife: It ain’t easy being practical

Growing up in a family whose standard parting phrase was “be careful” (to the point where you became superstitious and feared you may forget to utter the words), it should come as no surprise that I led a pretty safe, sheltered young life.

Risk-taking and spontaneity are traits I’ve only come to understand and acquire in adulthood, particularly since marrying someone with a bolder life approach (true to the opposites-attract phenomenon) and then having children together.

I’ve learned some interesting lessons along the way, some of them while pulling my hair out in the lineup at Costco, others more organically.

Gimme shelter
Be it blisters, cavities, hurt feelings, a bruised knee or a bruised ego, life happens.  We can only protect our kids from so much before they have to have their own authentic experiences, take some chances and learn from their own mistakes. There is only so much lecturing and sheltering a parent can do before a child stops listening.

Enhance your calm
You get what you get and you don’t get upset, or more accurately, there’s no point in getting upset. Fitting words I’ve learned to repeat to myself while raising a six-year-old who is incredibly sensitive, passionate, unforgiving, temperamental, sweet and caring all rolled into one. Honestly, there are days I’m ready to throw in the towel. (Is giving my two weeks’ notice and quitting this parenthood gig an option?) Our eight-year-old-daughter, meanwhile, shares most of the same traits, but in a more reserved (and palatable) package. She has a quiet way of observing the world around her, but also a fun-loving, carefree spirit that I hope stays with her for life.

A middle ground
Be responsible, reliable, well-mannered and sensible; follow rules, plan ahead, stay organized; make healthy choices and sound decisions … naturally these are important life skills to teach our children.

But, as I’ve come to learn, child rearing – like life in general – is about balance. It’s okay to be a little impulsive and impractical sometimes; to let your children have a playdate with your Inner Child.

Of course it’s not sensible to stop for an ice cream on the way home when you have a car full of groceries to put away, an open bedroom window when the forecast calls for rain, and wet clothes waiting to be put in the dryer. You already have ice cream at home, you mutter, and it’s not the ideal snack before swim lessons…. But then you stop yourself and take in the moment. To a six- and an eight-year-old, sometimes it’s alright to make a choice just for fun.

As parents, there’s only so much we can control when it comes to our kids. We feed, clothe and house them; protect, support and encourage them; teach them right from wrong; and above all, love them. In the end, we hope we’ve given them the tools to find their own path in life. To be bold, take some risks, keep their passion for the little things and find their own happiness and fulfillment. I hope to be along for their journey; maybe we’ll even stop for some ice cream on the way.

I guess I’ll keep this gig; the hours are long and the pay isn’t great, but the benefits are priceless.

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