Happy 2.0

I've come to learn that the key to happiness as a mother is learning to roll with the punches. Sounds easy, right? Clearly you don't know me very well.

For the first thirty-some-odd years of my life, I lived squarely in the realm of black and white. I like straight lines, military corners, right-and-wrong answers. As I've grown older, and perhaps a tad bit wiser, I'm learning to embrace the gray. And parenting, my friends, is ALL about the gray.

It would be GREAT if there were some handy-dandy notebook that popped out with your kid (right before the placenta maybe, so the doctor doesn't accidentally leave it all up in there), giving you simple step-by-step instructions on how to raise a happy, healthy, well-adjusted child. The rules would be uniform, one-size-fits-all. A simple cause-effect equation to good kids, happy families.

The problem, I've come to find, is that children are actually people and not clock radios (although mine wake me each morning like clockwork!). While they may all come with mostly the same parts, each are wired differently. They respond differently to uniform stimulus. Their moods, reactions and general demeanor can vary wildly from day-to-day (often moment-to-moment).

I've written about treating my kids like little employees - using the skills that have made me successful in the corporate realm to drive parenting success. The challenge with this approach (although it seemed utterly BRILLIANT at the time), is that it espouses the children-as-tiny-adults theory. That clear guidelines, timelines, consequences and repercussions will result in performance. The problem is that kids are not simply little adults. Their emotional intelligence and cognitive wiring are works-in-progress, and as parents it is our ultimate job to shepherd them through that development. This takes patience, empathy and a great deal of coffee (sometimes vodka...).

So, I have a new theory of parenting success. I will pick my battles. I will focus on the things that matter most and let the chips fall where they may for the other details. I used to agonize so much over developing the perfect approach to feeding, teaching, bathing and entertaining my kids that I often focused more on the schedule than actually enjoying my family. I was doing, not being. Treating parenthood as a never-ending to-do list, and missing the way that my boys interact like those old cranky guys up in the balcony on The Muppet Show. How Victor's smile lights up the room as soon as he wakes in the morning (very, very early in the morning...). How Angel can read the emotion of a room intuitively, and does his best to break up any tension with a joke or well-timed fart. How their eyes light up every time I walk into a room. How the word "Mommy!" at the end of an impossible day can be most beautiful sound in the world.

The BadAssMama is learning to live, love and laugh in the gray. I am better for it, and I know that my family is happier because of it.

And so am I...
April @ The 21st Century Housewife said...

Love this post! Kids are definitely not little adults, although it took me a while to realise it too. Schedules never worked for me either. I agree, when it comes to raising kids, grey is definitely the way to go - it's so much more fun! And it works too - my kid is 18, and he's turned out fine :)

Team Suzanne said...

Well, I've heard several times now that gray is the new black, so maybe you're right back where you started? I don't think so, though. I agree that learning to let go of the small stuff, control less and live more--is the key.

I've often guessed that this is the key advantage of very large families. If you've got four or more kids--you no longer have a choice (I would guess) about whether to organize this or control that. You're outnumbered, it's chaos, and you just hold on for dear life. With only two kids, it's possible to control a lot, so I still try, even though a lot of stuff is probably best just left to chaos.

Sometimes choices confine us--and there would be some relief in losing the option to control. A faster route to where you're trying to get.

Post a Comment