Operating Without a Manual

If you are a parent you are well aware that our children do not come with operating manuals. We laugh about it, throw it around as banter with other fellow parents, and chalk up some of our mistakes to not having that manual to follow or guide us.

I will admit that having a manual would be most helpful. I will also admit that not having one has caused me to make many mistakes as I parent my children. Luckily, I’ve heard it said that we grow as parents as our children grow in age. So true, isn’t it?

When Coco, who is now 12, was a newborn, I had no idea what I was doing as a parent. Really, I didn’t. However, together, he and I figured it out. We grew, together. He as a son and me as his mom. When Coco was one year old, I parented a one year old. I had no idea how to parent a three-year old, as we hadn’t gotten there yet. It wasn’t a worry I had to think about. Yet I knew, once we did get there, that I would still make mistakes. At every step in this parenthood journey I have made mistakes. Pretty confident I will continue to, until he and eight year old Lou are grown, out of the house, and they are no longer here to parent. Even then, I imagine, I will continue to make mistakes. I just may not be made as aware of them as I am now.

Today, while sitting in the waiting room of the car repair shop, I found myself in an interesting conversation with a fellow mother whom I had just met. She shared that she has a 14-year-old daughter and a 17-year-old son.

We began to talk about social media and our children. Thankfully, I do not yet find myself there with neither eight year old Lou nor 12-year-old Coco. Although, I am sure it’s coming just around the bend. Just as sure as I am that I will make mistakes once we get there and figure out how to navigate this new world we find ourselves in.

Next I knew this mom and I were discussing cell phones and our children. She inquired if my children have cell phones. I shared that much to my reluctance that Coco does. Lou does not and will not for quite some time. She then proceeded to ask me if I allow Coco to have his phone in his room at bedtime. I told her no, that is not allowed. It charges downstairs and we have full access to it at all times. She told me that is good.

We talked about the dangers of our children having phones. The access they provide to them to the outside world. The pressures related to owning phones and what she shared with me next shocked me. “My kids have their phones in their rooms at night and receive texts at all hours of the day from their friends.”

I said, “But you just told me that it is good that I keep Coco’s phone out of his room at bedtime.”

Her response, “Oh, and it is. But my kids are older and we didn’t realize the importance of keeping their phones out of their rooms and we can’t change it now.”

Wait. What?! “…can’t change it now?”

I found myself dumbfounded at her response. I mean, why can’t she change it now? They are still her children, right? She is still the parent? They still live under her roof. They still are expected to abide by her rules. Why can’t the rules change? I asked her these questions. She then herself seemed dumbfounded. “My son is 17, almost 18, I couldn’t make this request of him.”

Not only yes you could, in my opinion, you should.

I tell Coco and Lou, often, you may not always like me, and, that is OK. As your mom I wasn’t made to be liked. I was made to be respected. If you respect me as you grow up then my hope is that eventually the liking will come. When you are an adult. When it is an appropriate time for us to like one another and share in a friendship.

Rules can change, when you are parenting, can’t they? I mean if we all agree that we grow as parents as our children grow into toddlers, and then young kids, on into adolescents, and then young men and women, and finally into adulthood, then can’t the rules change along the way too?

It seems to me that if you say the rules can’t change then you are holding onto a hard and fast rule that may no longer work for you, for your child, or for your family. In the name of what exactly?

We grow as parents, they grow as children, as people. We navigate this along the way, together. As parents, isn’t it our duty to change the rules as it becomes necessary to change them? As parents, isn’t it our duty to make certain our children realize that we are growing, together, and rules that maybe at one time applied no longer do; and, as a result of fostering mutual respect, those rules changing must be adhered to?

We don’t have manuals. We do the best we can as parents. We make the choices we think are right. Each and every one of us. If Coco and Lou had come with manuals, at every step along the way to their becoming adults, I would hope the manual would have read, “At any point, as parent, and leader, you are reserved to change the rules. You are expected to change the rules.”

In my manual, the invisible one that I operate by on a daily basis, the above is the caveat at the bottom of every single page. And you know what? I follow it and expect my children to also. May we grow and change, together, as children and parents, realizing the rules can, and quite possibly will, change.

Dare I say, my children’s ability to not only acknowledge, but accept and respect that the rules can and do change, will help them to be better member’s of society down the road. That, my friends, sounds like an entirely different post to come…
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