There seems to be an ever widening margin between the parent I intended to be and the parent I am. As my oldest bears down on the end of his years at home, I am painfully aware of the many things I hoped I’d do and be as a parent but have yet to achieve.
I wanted to be much more gentle and patient. I was going to be the all-accepting parent who fed their dreams and defended their right to be whatever and whomever they wanted to be.
But then personal responsibilities overshadowed free-spirit. There are things a young person must do. Education, society, their health, and my sanity require it. It does matter what kind of grade comes home. As much as I want to bristle at the busy work and chafe at the unimaginative essay assignments, they must be done. Hoops must be gone through. Clothes don’t necessarily have to match but they should be clean. Same goes for hair, teeth, and fingernails. Sure, I’d rather have ice cream for dinner too, but no one can live on a diet of sugar. And while I love their very essence, sometimes I need a little space between their edges and mine.
I tried to explain to my distraught teen who had put off the summer assignments until the night before school started that no, it didn’t matter if either of us felt some of the work was silly, that didn’t mean it wouldn’t have to be done. I explained (badly and somewhat over emotionally) that this work had to be done so that the teacher knew my child was a serious student so that my child could be successful in his class. Then I laid out why it was important to do well in the class and in school for that matter – and here’s where the mother I never imagined I’d be regressed to saying, “so you don’t live in my basement all your life.”