How much credit do parents get for how their children turn out? I hear a lot of parent-blaming, especially mother-blaming, when a child does something that isn't very desirable. Even when grown people do things, even criminal things, you often hear the question, "Where was the mother?" Less often, but still often enough, you hear, "Where were the parents?"
I have heard stories where young mothers sit in church with a crying or struggling baby and can hear the "tsk tsks" of old ladies as they scoff at her struggles. "Can't she control that baby?" You can't help but notice as parents whisk their kids out of Sacrament Meeting to go who knows where with their upset kids. Some parents can do this with a smile. Some are obviously flustered. Before I had children, I had my own "tsk tsk" conversation in my head. "Well, when I have kids, my kid won't do that! I won't do that with my kid. My kid won't be allowed to just run around in the foyer if s/he can't behave in Sacrament Meeting." Now that I am a parent, my thoughts are more like, "I am so glad that it's not my turn....yet." I just sit in gratitude most of the time that it's not my turn to do the parent-child shuffle out the door. I have had my own turns. I will have many more. But in those moments, I'm just glad it's not me for once, even if only for a moment. Sometimes I hope those mamas catch my eye so I can give them that knowing glance. You know the one, "Hang in there, Mama! You're doing a good job, and I know exactly how you feel. You get no judgement from me."
Those kids are very blessed because they have parents who are trying to teach them good things. Sometimes it is obvious with the older kids at church who has parents that have worked hard to show them how to be cool kids. Or is it? How much is it because the parents did something "right" and how much of it is because the kid is just a cool kid? What about the kids that don't seem so cool? Perhaps their parents are also amazing parents, but that kid struggles for some reason. Do the parents get all of the blame for a kid who struggles? How can you tell, by looking at the fruits of the labor, i.e. the child's behavior and accomplishments, perhaps lack thereof, how much it is because of the parents? Sometimes, despite very involved and wonderful parents, kids might become wayward. Or they might become amazing citizens. Or, despite some really awful or neglectful parenting, children grown up to be amazing adults. Or terrible adults. I guess no one really knows by looking at a child how the parents are doing at raising them. Or do they?
I am doing my best to teach my kids what I believe is a good way to live. I will give them all the tools that I can so that one day they will be equipped to make good and righteous decisions. I hope I can teach them to follow the Savior. I hope I can not only teach them, but show them how to be kind, loving and compassionate. I hope I can teach by example how to bridle their passions. I hope I can teach them how to function in society, once I figure that one out myself. I hope I can teach them to stop and think before making huge decisions. I hope I can teach them to gather all the information they can before drawing conclusions. I want to continue to nurture Lily's curiosity and wonder. She is such a curious little munchkin. She is so interested in the things around her. I hope she continues that. I hope in my effort to teach her that tables are for eating at but not standing on and couches are for sitting but not climbing that I don't stifle her enthusiasm for life. There has to be a good balance. There are limits in life, but in my teaching her of limits, I don't want to cause her to lose her wonder. She is also a sweet and generous little soul. I hope she stays that way. I truly admire her boldness and friendliness. I can't wait to get to know Kimberly better and learn what some of her wonderful attributes are.
Even with all of those wonderful things about Lily, she still struggles with a few things. For example, she just won't warm up to Kimberly very well. I think Lily is one of the sweetest and kindest girls I have ever known. How much is that because of me? How much credit do I get? How much is it my fault that Lily doesn't warm up to Kimberly? It's always interesting when someone says to me, "Well, I never had that problem, but every kid is different." It's kind of like when one kid starts walking at ten months and another starts walking at a year. For those two months, that kid's mother wonders, "Is there something wrong with my kid? Why isn't my kid walking yet?" And the other mother says, "Oh, don't worry. Every kid is different." But you know she's secretly satisfied and relieved that her kid is the one that's walking already. And I know this because I was that mother for awhile. I know I am not the only one. I felt a huge pride that my child, Lily, was scooting, crawling, and walking super early. I must have been super parent and doing something right if that was the case. But was it? Was it really anything I was doing? Or was it just Lily's time? As time has gone on, and after many doses of humble pie, I have been thinking about this. I know that I will get plenty of blame when things go wrong, when my kid misbehaves, etc. but how much of the good stuff is because of something I did right? Will I ever do anything right as a parent?
So now Lily isn't ahead of the game like she used to be. She talks, but there are kids younger than her who talk better. She knows about the potty but has no interest in potty training. There are kids who are completely potty trained at half her age. Now I worry, "Will my child be in diapers forever? Will she ever learn? What can I do to get her to be interested?" And you know the responses I get? "Don't worry! Every child is different."
But I bet their kid is potty trained.