There are things that I can talk a lot about for a long time. Publishing is one. My lovely city of Columbia is another. Marketing can keep me geeking out for days. But the topic on which I have the most opinions, fun stories, and memories is raising children. You see, when I play the game of “Name something people will be surprised to know about you,” it’s always that I have five children. (My second go-to is that I have raised chickens, which is oddly similar in a lot of ways.)
I have five wonderful, interesting, funny, trouble-making, boundary-pushing, messy, sarcastic young humans between the ages of 13 and 23. Three boys and two girls. (Yes, boys are easier.) They each have their own unique personalities, which is so crazy since there are so many of them. I have spent 23 years of my life learning about how to be a good mother to them. One of the most important things that I have learned is that when patience, time, and money were short, the key was to remember what really mattered. (It wasn’t the dirty dishes. )The second most critical lesson to learn was that social media isn’t real. The families you see with all of their shit together . . . you are only seeing their very best moments, and you should never judge your reality on their fairy tale moments that aren’t the whole story.
I’ve paid daycare bills that were more expensive than my mortgage. I’ve gone to parent-teacher conferences — both the good and the bad ones. I’ve taken college tours, tolerated gap year(s), and discussed trade schools. I’ve held my child crying as they battled their own demons and worried about those of their friends. I’ve had to let others come in and help care for my child as they sought treatment. I’ve worried when they have fallen and beamed when they’ve gotten up and brushed themselves off. By no means have I always gotten it right. I know that I have handled some things poorly, especially earlier on (sorry oldest ones!), but I’m starting to get the hang of it now that they are almost gone.
What matters most is for our children to know we actually hear them. We are listening to them and their thoughts and sitting with them in their hard places . . . ideally with our arms wrapped around them. It’s hard to learn how to tie your shoes. It’s hard to learn how to manage your time and homework. It’s hard to learn how to navigate all of the emotions teens have in our world lived out on social media. It’s hard to feel safe. It’s hard to disagree with people you love and find your own voice. It’s just hard. Heck, it’s hard for us to feel these things as adults, so imagine how much harder it is for our children with no life experience to give them a longer perspective. They only see the present, which brings an insane amount of pressure.
I’ll leave you with this. It does, in fact, take a village. Maybe you can find new parts to your village in this issue. And, lastly, yes I do still count them every day to make sure I know where they are all at. That’s a habit I don’t see breaking.