Parenting is a 24/7 job. And I mean “job.” In our non-parenting jobs, we know whether we’re doing a good job in a variety of ways – we haven’t gotten fired, job duties are completed on time and accurate and quantifiable results are seen and measured. But how do we measure how we are doing at the job of parenting?
We don’t really get fired from that (unless the kids are taken away from us by the authorities), and job duties and results are subjective and ever-changing. Short of looking at the kids and thinking “well, they are clothed, fed, have shelter and seem healthy,” it can be difficult to know if you are doing a good job of parenting.
Here are some of the ways I think we can know we’re parenting well:
• The kids object to their discipline – if they didn’t object, we’re probably going too easy on them
• They pretend they aren’t listening but then they end up doing the thing you told them to (even if they claim it was their idea all along – whatever)
• They open the door for someone, pick something off the floor at the store to put it back where it belongs on the shelf, say “thank you” without prompting and other little courtesies that came from our early teachings
• They seem to have a good head on their shoulders, making more wise decisions than dumb ones
• They are critical of their peers who don’t clear their plates, who talk back to their parents and who do drugs
• They help their siblings with school and social problems without being nudged by you
• They tell you, in some unexpected moment, that you’re a really good parent and that they are grateful for you, even though, for the week before, they’d done and said everything to you that showed the opposite to the point that you were ready to throw in the parenting towel and beg for them to be taken away!
That last point is a biggy for me. There have been so many times, especially with four kids that because of the sheer number of them, the nastiness and self-doubt of parenting is compounded. I feel like a whack-a-mole game being pounded down by one thing after another in this job of parenting. But then, someone will do something wonderful, like the things I listed above and I think “oh, okay, I’ll keep going.” And I do, and Thomas does, for the toughest job in the world that we are doing pretty well.