Parenting is exhausting. I’m not even talking about the sleepless nights of early parenthood. I’m talking about the efforts to change bad behavior, the drama!
With all of the never ending stuff of parenting, I spent the first, oh, 15 years of being a parent growing increasingly tired and worn down both physically and emotionally. Eventually, I lost steam. Now I’ve eased up on:
- correcting the numerous naughty behaviors that pop up each day;
- maintaining all of my rules as diligently;
- following up on punishments I had issued;
- fretting over every single grade, undone chore, unbathed child.
I was trying so hard for so many years to keep everything and everyone in line. I thought that’s what my responsibility was as a parent. After all, I do believe that a parent’s job is to raise future adults who will be happy, healthy, functioning, people who contribute to the world. And to do that takes constant monitoring, right? Maybe not.
When I started figuratively throwing up my hands and saying to myself: “Oh, I give up,” parenting life got easier (note, I’m saying easier, not easy). My exhausted self didn’t have the energy to be on the kids for everything. If their rooms weren’t clean, oh well, it’s their personal space and as long as there isn’t an odor or vermin emerging from it, I can close the door and it’s their problem. If their hair is greasy because they didn’t bathe, they’re the one who has to go to school looking like that with an itchy scalp. If they don’t study for the test, they’ll get a bad grade and will have to spend more time at school doing extra credit work.
The comeuppance of my I-can’t-take-it-anymore attitude was that my children started living with the consequences of their own choices which is a great lesson. And I started to relax and yell a whole lot less. A level of peace fell over the house. Outside observers might just say that I decided to pick my battles. I call it benefitting from being worn to a frazzle. Whatever it’s called, it is working.
I watched my wife whip herself into a frenzy over the big stuff that was worthy of that reaction and also over the little stuff that wasn’t. While Courtney was operating at a near constant level of stress with the kids, I am guilty of going from zero to sixty in my reactions to the kids which isn’t much better. Although we both feel this huge obligation to do right by the kids, trying to monitor and correct every move they make is oppressive for them, exhausting for us and, really, unrealistic.
We do need to pick our battles and have worked hard to readjust our expectations in doing so. Courtney’s right. When we started doing this—her especially—everything did calm down around the house. It was like a group exhale. Do we wish the kids’ rooms (and bodies) were always clean? You bet! Do we wish their manners were stellar and their grades top notch? Absolutely! But you can’t always have it all and in the process of trying to get it all you can end up doing a lot of damage to the spirits of your kids and yourself.
Our lesson? Giving up a little and loosening our reigns has allowed some space for our kids to develop their own sense of decision-making and consequences. And that seems to us to be good parenting.
Tango with us: