We’ve all read posts written by women, painfully baring their souls and sharing their runaway fantasies. You know, the ones where they jump on an empty rail car and leave their troubles behind. I watch the train run though my small town often, but I get carsick, so that doesn’t sound like fun to me. I can tell you what I do dream about though–it’s my old apartment. It only happens at the end of the toughest days and usually catches me off guard. That was the case last night when an unexpected errand gave me 10 minutes of quiet freedom. For a brief, fleeting moment, I missed it and all that it stood for.
I moved around a lot in college and had a whole slew of roommates. But in this particular apartment, I lived alone. Gloriously alone, with no agenda outside of the shift work that paid my rent. I came and went as I pleased, kept my pantry bare and relished my independence. The best part? No one needed me. My emotional energy was my own, to be spent however I wanted. Some days, I would give anything to go back, even though my sofa was on bricks and the complex was questionable. I yearn for a simpler time, where I was only responsible for navigating my own issues, not discovering them in others. As my kids get older, I’m not as physically tired as I was when they were babies but, emotionally speaking, I’m running on fumes.
Because we’re doing it the hard way.
My kids need to be seen, embraced and accepted for the unique little humans that they are. Their struggles are worthy of my full attention, their successes deserve victory dances (even if I don’t quite understand why). It’s important that I engage with all three of them, equally each day (and have somehow figured out how to have three conversations at once). There are different stressors, fears, and fascinations for each kid and different solutions for every problem. I’m determined to individualize my approach.
I do my best to laugh at their made-up jokes, follow their complicated stories about ‘what happened at recess’ and pay close attention to rules of the games they create. I work on validating their feelings, using three different approaches for my very different children. The things that work for my first born do NOT work on her younger brothers. It would be easier to not pay any attention to this tedious fact … much easier. But they all deserve the hard way.
More often than not
There is definitely an easier way. It’s cookie-cutter and cliché and truthfully doesn’t allow me to sleep any better at night. In fact, the hard way has me so emotionally exhausted that sleep comes quickly. It doesn’t matter if you’re doing it for one kid or one dozen, the hard way feels very much like reinventing the wheel, over and over again. But if I don’t want them to fit into any mold but their own, I have to keep grinding away.
I could make snap decisions, giving no thought to how it might impact their little spirits. I could give vague, blanket answers to their constant questions and blow-off their attempts to entertain me, cutting their long-version-of-short stories off. Let’s be real, sometimes I do all of those things, and then some. Those days are infinitely easier. But most days, I’m doing it the hard way.
But it’s a marathon
And a mountain climb. It’s a conscious decision, each day, to continue. I keep reminding myself that we’ll all win if we keep it up. Our kids will grow up with an understanding of who they are because the hard way celebrates their unique selves. They will know what they have to offer the world because we allowed them to offer it to us, their parents, first. One day, we’ll look around at kids, who aren’t kids anymore and have changed their world for the better, loved those around them well and lifted others up when they were struggling. If they have kids of their own, they’ll understand the tears that we shed for them, and sometimes because of them. And they’ll thank us, for doing it the hard way.