Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Parenting Thoughts: Sometimes the Little Things are Big Enough

One of the glaringly obvious things I did not realize about parenting until I was a parent is how much WORRYING parents do. I don't necessarily mean the staring at the ceiling, crying into your pillow sort of worrying, which comes with the big stuff, I mean the careful considering and weighing of options that parents do over the little issues.

Should I start to supplement formula?
Is it ok if the baby food is pre-made?
Oh My Goodness, I microwaved something in the sippy cup, is it toxic now?

And that's just a tiny sample of what crosses your mind before you really have to worry about "raising" your kids.

Nanny or daycare? Preschool or Play Group? Potty Training? Vaccinations? There are about three thousand points to consider for each question, and every good mom I know spends a great deal of time thinking about these questions and many, many more.

And then they start to grow up. And the worrying doesn't get smaller, if anything it gets worse. Schools, teachers, friends, influences, world view, community, family, education, death, crushes are all issues that cross my mind as I feel the weight of the responsibility of raising my boys into Honorable Men. And so I give you two examples of what is currently on my mind.

The Valentine's Day Dance. Our son asked to go, but knew the answer before he did. I know our position isn't necessarily going to be popular, or maybe even understood with some readers but because of our faith & value system, but the answer is no. (To be clear, I don't think dancing is in anyway wrong, its the sexually driven "Dance" atmosphere I have a problem with for early teens). Being told no is a hard thing to hear for a kid surrounded by friends allowed to go. Its hard for me to watch him deal with it, even if he does so without complaint.

He said to me this morning, weighed down with visible stress, "Mom its HARD to be the most popular kid in grade 8 ** apparently self esteem isn't an issue here ** in a school of 950 kids. It's hard not to be allowed to do this stuff." By "this stuff" he means swear, attend dances, date frivolously, and be disrespectful to teachers. I know. And I worry for him. I worry that we are making the right decisions. I worry that if I compromise on this issue he will feel our faith can be compromised too. I worry that I am showing a trustworthy kid that I don't really trust him. I worry that if he goes, he will be exposed and tempted by issues I am not ready for him to be exposed and tempted by. I worry that in my attempt to raise him right, I am harming him - holding him back from rites of passage I should be bearing through gritted teeth.

In my worry, I came up with a solution he could live with - instead of the dance, he and several other kids we know that aren't allowed or chose not to go will be going out with me for a night of fun and craziness. We've got the pool rented to take kayaking lessons. We will eat dessert (ok THEY will eat dessert, I am still under 20 carbs a day!! Yeah for ME!!). Maybe watch a movie? I hope its fun. I will worry from now until then that it won't be. That it won't be enough. That my son will be sad for what he is missing instead of appreciating what he has.

What will he remember about this weekend 10 years from now? That his mom was mean, strict and ruined his life and he should have been able to go to the Grade 8 Valentine's Dance? That believing in God and walking out your faith means life is boring? That his mom rocked and planned something fun for him because she loved him? That kayaking in the pool was a blast, and he won't even be able to recall why it was he took those lessons that freezing February day? I worry.

Quebec Trip. Tanner was signed up, registered and our deposit paid. He was thrilled, excited, planning and all set to go in May. And now he is not.

We got the final cost total on Friday and its double what we ever expected to have to pay. We simply cannot afford it. No excuses but many reasons and its just impossible for me to pay for it right now. Economy, hockey, 4 kids, rising costs and a dying van all mean the money, any extra money, just isn't there. And my heart breaks for the precious, deserving child I had to explain this too.

He was gracious and accepting and even feels like he made the decision to NOT go all by himself. I gently explained that I could send all 4 boys to summer camp for a WEEK for HALF the cost of sending him to go to Quebec for 5 days. That the price we would pay for his trip is double the worth of the car his father drives. Tanner is always anxious to please and he seems to understand that the trip is a luxury the family just can't afford. But I worry.
Is he hiding his great disappointment by stuffing his feeligns? Is he going to regret this lost opportunity well into adulthood? Will he feel deprived? Looked over? Will he know how loved and appreciated and valued he is and on that we could never put a dollar value?

Of course I came up with a compromise - Summer camp (one tenth the cost of the Quebec trip and now seems cheap by comparison), spending the week he was supposed to be in Quebec between my sister and his God Father, a couple of private lessons with a goalie coach.
Am I offerring bribes? Is this just cushioning the blow? Is it enough?

Most mothers, I am sure, wish they could be everything to their kids. Provide everything, give everything, teach everything, protect from everything. There is no greater job, but no heavier responsibility.
I wouldn't trade a minute of all this worry for anything. ANYTHING.


Vanessa said...

Sorry to hear about the trip!!

Di said...

Would not trade it for ANYTHING except for maybe 5 minutes of peace and quiet in the bathroom with out one of the angels yelling on the other side of the door..MMMOOOMMM?!!?!?!?!? You are a great mother and all of your boys will one day rise up and call you blessed! Chin up.... they have not started dating for real yet! (not here either God be praised!!!!!!)

Anonymous said...

Hey, Jen...
I'm looking at all of your parenting dilemmas from the other side of it now, having been there, done that. According to my boys, they are now glad that I set the boundaries that I did, was as strict as I was. Don't ever second guess your values, the values you're trying to impress on your sons. Sometimes the boys and I will talk about stuff, look at where they are and what they're doing, and then look at the kids that were 'allowed to do all that stuff', and that's when they'll tell me that they're thankful for the way they were raised, for the boundaries that they had, and that they don't resent the 'strict' upbringing. They're both wonderful men now, thank God, and your boys will be too!! They will also look back later on and be grateful for the values that you instilled in them.

Lala's world said...

you are so right, the constant worrying never ends....just changes and high school is another whole can of worry! I am officially going grey!