Sometimes, as a parent, we feel like we've got it down. Like we are swimming in familiar waters, aware of where the deep spots are and reassured that the minnows tickling your toes are just little minnows nibbling, not toothy monsters lying in wait.
That familiar swimming hole is often the place I write from. What I've experienced, time and again, and what is familiar, tested and true.
But there are those other days, right? Ones where I should add a disclaimer: this writing comes from the desk of a woman who has no idea what the hell she's doing.
I have a very wise friend who often says to me, when life's road is twisting around a new bend: You have to walk the path to know it. Sometimes, though, I think parenting is more like driving down the road. It really doesn't matter how many times you've driven down the same street, even if it is familiar territory, there's always going to be something new to deal with. Sometimes it's a reckless driver, coming at you because they are texting or thinking about getting to the bank before it closes or yelling at their kids. (Just proof that we are all driving impaired, in our own ways, really, and if that's not open to a bigger metaphor, I don't know what is.) Sometimes, it's some big potholes or other hazards we see just in time and have to go around. Sometimes, we are lucky and read the signs warning of roadwork and we detour in time; sometimes we are so busy ourselves that we miss the detour signs and end up just plain stuck and stalled, waiting for the safety flagger in hazard orange to turn the sign they bravely hold from Stop to Slow. Then we either breathe deeply, know that whatever's at the end of our route will still be there. Or sometimes, we get peeved with the kids for distracting us, or at the city because isn't there so much construction going on all around the time?, or we beat ourselves up for not noticing, and then get scared because we wonder how much else we didn't notice.
We have no idea what the hell we are doing, because we've never done this before.
Pretty good reason, huh?
Sometimes, we do the best we can in the moment. We use the information we have to suss out the situation to the best of our ability and then try our most reasonable approaches. And sometimes, we realize we can only do so much and sometimes, we have to express to our children our own limitations in how we can influence their world and make things better for them.
Lately, I've experienced situations I which just couldn't fix or make better for Kiddo. This morning, I found myself throwing a couple of other parents under the bus because Kiddo simply didn't understand why I couldn't conjure up a playdate with their child for him. I felt terrible about the whole thing-- their being too busy to make planning anything easy, their never reciprocating playdates-- but mostly, I just feel bad for Kiddo. And after repeated questioning on the subject, with him getting increasingly madder at me, I just told him the truth: "Listen, making time for playdates is just not an important thing for So-And-So's parents right now. I don't know why, but that's the way it is, and there's really nothing I can do about it."
I felt bad, but didn't know what else to do. Sometimes, kids just won't take your word for it. They won't believe what they don't want to believe. I needed to help him understand that this wasn't about me, and it most certainly wasn't about him, it just was how things were. They were busy. Playdates weren't on their list of priorities. I didn't think it made the loss of his friend's presence any less felt, but I had run out of energy politely reminding him that the family 'was busy'. That really doesn't mean shit to a kid, right? They're busy too, and they have to stop all the time for us and our needs. So, our adult excuses just seem empty to them. They are focused on their disappointment, not the why of it.
This is where we have to wing it. We have to just go forward, hoping we do what's best for our kids. I realized that his ego must have been hurt, however, it was life circumstances doing the hurting, not his friend refusing to play. There's a difference there. Life being unfair vs a friend's rejection-- take your pick. I know which option I'd choose.
So, there you have it. We go forward with what we've got-- whatever we've got. Life just seems to keep shaking things up, lest we get complacent. They get bigger and all of those other challenges we have mastered fade into the background as new ones arise. I have twenty years of experience in working with children, five years of being a mom, and some days I'm really pretty sure I don't know what the heck will come next, where the parenting journey will lead. I most certainly do not, at all times, know what the hell I'm doing. Maybe that's what the fun part is, the part that gives us something to talk about, to mull over. The unexpected. Expect it. It's the only guarantee you get as a parent.