by Sue Pascoe
Parenting is only for the brave, for those who are willing to risk humiliation, and for those don’t mind having their heart wrung harder than they will be in any other relationship.
After my beautiful daughter learned to walk, I took her to a playground. There were several other parents and their children, and I couldn’t help but notice the little boys seemed to be running amok. These three-year-old hooligans were scrambling and pulling each other down, running from the slide to the swing and making circles around the park.
My well-behaved little girl was waiting her turn to go up the slide when one of the little boys started climbing up the back, swung around and beat her down the slide. I was furious: couldn’t these parents control these ruffians?
On the other hand, I felt smug, knowing I was the perfect parent. My little girl was reasonable, listened when I asked her to do something, went to bed with no issues, sat nicely in restaurants, never screamed or shouted and rarely cried. I was raising the perfect child. I was the perfect parent.
Less than two years later my son was born. As he grew, I noticed small differences. Crayons became flying objects. Rocks in the street were thrown—and it didn’t matter at what. He jumped off couches, beds and tables (even after being told we don’t do that in our family), and he was always the first down the playground slide, no matter how many kids were in front of him.
I tried to keep him in line, but then I offered up a prayer and asked for forgiveness. “Please help me to be a better parent,” I said. “I am so sorry I ever judged those little boys.”
As I later explained to a friend, the difference between my two kids was “she never came into a room and knocked over her brother’s play table just because she could.”
Preschool involves the beginning of parent conferences, and with my daughter, we generally ran out of things to talk about after the teacher told me she followed rules, was good about listening and excelled at finger painting.
With my son, as I started to sign up for a slot to meet the teacher, she said, “Some of you may want to sign up for two slots.”
After a double session, we learned that my son did not particularly care to follow the rules, that he did not share particularly well and that he liked to fight with the boys. It would be the first of many parent-teacher conferences that stretched through elementary school, in which we were allotted extra time.
When my third child was born (another son), a lot of his physical behavior seemed to be similar to his brother’s, with one exception: he hated getting in trouble and did what he could to avoid a reprimand.
Then my perfect daughter was singled out because she wasn’t reading in first grade. How could this be? I read to my kids every night, I loved to read.
My mom—and a psychologist (I was having trouble understanding how my husband and I were such bad parents)— warned me: little kids, little troubles, big kids, big troubles. As my children went through their teen years, driving on PCH and Sunset, going to parties and hearing about other kids who were on drugs, I started to pray, “Keep them safe.”
In reality, however, the real issue in child-rearing was me. I wanted perfect kids, the kind who spent hours studying every night. I wanted exceptional kids who in their spare time created robots, played the cello and performed a sport at a national level. I wanted my kids sought after by Harvard or Yale.
I wanted my children to be the kind of kids that other parents would admire and look to me and ask, “How did you do it? How did you raise such extraordinary human beings?”
To people who have no children or those who have really young children, there is nothing harder than raising kids. They have their own soul, personality and purpose when they come into the world. They aren’t clay, and no matter how many violin lessons they’re given, they most likely won’t play at Carnegie Hall.
So to those people who look at others teens and young adults and find fault, saying smugly “My kid won’t be like that,” your time to judge will be after you have raised a child to adulthood.