Children. They are the source of our greatest joys in life and our greatest frustration. Often as parents we feel like we are parenting in the dark. Recently my husband and I took a family trip to Hershey Park. This was going to be the fun family end of summer vacation that would help to kick off the new school year. Both children had a DS, they each had their own portable DVD player and videos, and my husband had bought an attachment for the I-pods so that they could both listen to music. We had all the bases covered, or so we thought.
About 20 miles into our journey the argument between my 5 year old and my 11 year old broke out. “I want to play Super Mario Brothers”, screamed the 5 year old as she began to grab it from her sister’s hand. “Get away from me, it’s my turn with it”, said the 11 year old as she pulled back. Five pushes, Eight Screams and 2 stops along the highway to threaten turning the car around, later…we arrived at the Hotel. My husband and I were appalled. How could they be so out of control, so ungrateful for the wonderful trip we planned? It was only a two hour drive and we were already angry and exhausted. How had we failed as parents? We never would have done this to our parents. Upset and disgruntled we grabbed our luggage from the car, told the kids they were staying separated from each other for the rest of the day, and walked into the hallway that led to our room.
As we made our way down the hall we began to hear, through the very thin hotel walls, the loud conversations that were going on in the other rooms. One father, was screaming “You have ruined our vacation, we are never coming to Hershey again,” Another mother, loudly but deliberately listed out the “New Rules” “Keep your hands to yourself, Leave your sister alone, and don’t even think about brining your Nintendo to the park!” As we passed another room, we just heard the words” You’re grounded!” Room after room, it was a different conversation with the same message. “We are frustrated parents, who must have the worst kids in the universe!” Oddly, the chaos made my husband and I smile. We were not bad parents, and we didn’t have bad kids…we just had kids…the same kids that were in every other room at that hotel.
Sometimes as parents we are too hard on ourselves. We believe that if we are struggling with an issue regarding parenting, we must be alone. The fact is, most kids are pretty similar. They all present some challenge whether academically, emotionally, or behaviorally at some point in their childhood, and we as parents just have to expect it and even plan for it. I’m hoping that this column will be one of those ways to do that. Every month, I will be listening to you, your frustrations, your challenges and your questions, and will try and offer some thoughtful advice to make the journey of parenting just a little bit easier. As a mother of two girls, and teacher, and director of a preschool, I have not seen it all, but I’ve seen a lot and look forward to sharing with you.
All the best!