It was a short email. It read, “don’t sweat the small things, focus on the big stuff. Otherwise, you will drive yourself crazy.”
This was from a man who read a recent column about the trials and tribulation of raising tweens. Coming from a father of four – three adult men and a woman, all in their 20s – it’s advice I will heed. They are words I recall when dealing with this or that situation with my kids, especially the near 13-year-old.
I remind myself to not sweat the small stuff when I text him to come inside for dinner and get attitude about not being able play with his friends for more than two hours on a school night. I will tell myself these words when I ask him about a missed homework assignment and get a blank stare of disgust in return, or when I have to wake him up in the shower every single morning before school.
I prefer to think of the long conversations we have on car rides as things to cherish. An example would be this week after a middle school lacrosse game in Easton. It’s when we have our best interactions and sometimes it’s just silence listening to hip hop, his favorite genre of music. We don’t talk about his day beyond cursory homework stuff. We talk about what lacrosse was like when I was his age. What I did for fun when I was his age. How it was possible to live without a cell phone.
It was a great wide-ranging talk, one he directed as he wished. I let him interrupt me from time to time and change the subject randomly. It was just a free flow, the kind of chats he craves. I went along with it because it’s these sorts of conversations I want to hang on to as memories.
As we finished our hour-plus drive, the last 20 of which was mostly silence listening to music, I remembered something I had read earlier that day from raisingteenstoday.com. I found it a good read, it’s a good reminder for parents of teens as well as reflective for those with young adults or older.
Now that my kids are teenagers, here are a few “honest truths” that I’ve come to realize. I’ve realized that the time I have with my kids is brief and that I don’t want to spend my days nagging them about ridiculously unimportant things like a few wet towels they forgot to hang up, putting the toothpaste cap back on the toothpaste or whether they’re wearing the same sweatshirt to school two days in a row. I’ve learned that my kids are only mine for a little while and even though there are a million things I want to teach them about life before they leave my tender care, my main goal is to teach them to be kind – to family, friends and even strangers on the street, to get along with others, to embrace their differences and those of others, to face this world with humility and be grateful for each new sunrise.
I’ve realized that grades may be important, but they’ll never define who my kids are and that a simple letter, ACT or SAT score, or their GPA will never fully encapsulate my kids’ abilities or serve as measurement of their future success.
I’ve realized that having a strong relationship with my kids is my ultimate goal which means I need to dig down deep for patience when I haven’t any left to spare, listen before I talk, think before I react and have faith that all the lessons that I’ve instilled in them since they were toddlers will sink in and guide their decisions through life.
I’ve learned to block out what every other parent is doing, and follow my own parenting path and focus on what’s important for my kids and my family.I’ve learned that everything pales in comparison to our time together. Once it’s gone we can never get it back. Grabbing a few minutes before they head off to school, playing a silly card game, taking a road trip or having dinner together as a family – whether it’s five minutes or five hours – I’ll take every moment because time spent with my kids is time I’ll never regret.
I’ve learned that all the while I thought I was teaching my kids, they were teaching me, too.So many lessons they’ve taught me without even realizing it – lessons about my capabilities as a mom, about holding on to your childlike spirit with a vice grip because that’s the secret of youth, about finding a little piece of adventure in every day and that dancing with your kids in the kitchen to blaring music is the kind of therapy every mom needs.… I’ve learned that although I question myself as a parent often enough, my kids are on the right path. I must have done something right, at least up until now. Sure, they have some growing up and maturing to do, and they’re still capable of making poor decisions, but they’re smart, competent and ready to take on this world without my constant intervention. This is my time to take a step back and let them take the reins in their life.Lastly, I’ve learned that this is one journey that doesn’t have to end. I’ll always be by their side cheering them on and loving them with all my heart. There’s a bond between us that can never be broken – we’ll always have each other and I will always be their mom.