Celebrating Mother’s Day has gotten me thinking a lot about my own journey as a parent. It has not been an easy trek. I became a mom at 17, just before I began my college life, so it wasn’t exactly the most convenient time to have a child. Nor was it the “proper” time as I’m sure most would say. With tremendous support from my family, we were able to get through with as much normalcy as possible.
Then came the period in my life when I started raising her on my own…away from my family, in a different country, where we no longer had the luxury of household help and nannies. She was just about 7 at the time. One might think I must have dreaded that next step, but in all honesty, I looked forward to it. It was a new beginning where I was finally given the opportunity to really learn what it meant to become a mother.
While I grew up in a household that had help to do just about everything you could think of, I was always the type who would insist on cooking meals in the kitchen, organizing and rearranging my own clothes and what-not, driving myself to wherever I needed to go (although the driver came in handy every now and then). So I knew deep down that living independently from my family, with a child in tow, was going to be something I could take on. But boy was I in for a big surprise. I soon realized that (single) parenting isn’t just about getting chores done and scheduling play dates, it is about shaping this other person’s life into one that would develop a strong sense of character and solid foundation of moral values, consistently supporting her physical, emotional, spiritual, social and intellectual development, and guiding her decision-making skills through open communication and thoughtful and intentional prayer.
Having parented for nearly 20 years now, I have realized that:
- There is no such thing as a perfect parent, ony a growing parent. Whenever I am feeling inadequate and insecure with my parenting skills, I quickly turn my thoughts to the fact that I too, am growing and learning. I cannot possibly have the answers to everything.
- No matter how they try to pretend that they have it all figured out, our kids, no matter what age, need our attention. Given that our own lives can get chaotic, we need to set aside time during the day to reach out and find out how their day at school (or at work, as in my case) is going, then schedule perhaps a shopping or movie date and use that as an opportunity to catch up on things that may have gone by unnoticed during the week.
- Our kids need to learn how to become independent. I admit, I am guilty of trying to control everything all the time, but in the last few years, I have learned to slowly let go and trust that she is putting to practice everything I have taught her when it comes to making sound decisions. She may fall and stumble every now and then, but that’s how she learns that with bad choices, come consequences. As parents, we can only do so much to protect and safeguard our kids… at some point, we need to step back and let them live out what we have taught.
- Teach by example. Nothing else to it. We truly have to practice what we preach. Consistently.