I’m not here to provide any life-changing advice on how to raise kids. The truth is, as parents, we make hundreds of decisions any given day. We answer questions, and ask questions, sometimes straight to our kids, and other times just in our minds. From the moment they wake up until they fall asleep, we’re on duty. There’s already enough people telling us what to do, and what not to do. It can all be very exhausting.
What I will provide is a simple story and some tips on how to stay fit for the marathon of parenting, a feat that truly tests our limits, and one that takes extraordinary endurance.
Should I really give her juice as soon as she wakes up? What kind of habit am I creating? Maybe I should wake them up with nice classical music. Why couldn’t she sleep for a little longer? Do you want to lay back down, sweetie? Why didn’t I douse myself in patchouli? What should I pack in their lunches? No, you cannot wear your pajamas to school. Why are you still in bed? Did you brush your teeth? Do you have your snow pants? Yes, you need to wear a hat and gloves; it’s 3 degrees outside! Check watch…7:07 a.m.
Fast-forward to 8:07 p.m…
I let the older two watch Sofia the First a little longer than they should, which led to them being tired and cranky, and not so kind to one another in the bathroom while getting ready for bed. I could’ve walked away, used a nice, calm voice, remembered to have a sense of humor, or had some empathy… all those great parenting and teaching tricks that I know work, and have used a thousand times. Instead, I got irrationally upset.
Once we all settled down, and I got them to bed, I heard yelling and arguing so I went back into their bedroom. I looked at Emma, who had a thousand things surrounding her and asked, “Emma, look around you! I just don’t understand. Why do you need all this stuff???” And as I watched the tears well up in her eyes, she proclaimed with enough drama to win an Academy Award, “It’s just that I love you so much that I have to build up all this stuff around me to try to replace you, and help me calm down!”
I seriously melted. I embraced her and said how much I loved her and how happy I was that she still loved me even when I yell at her. We were able to rewind the not-so-good bedtime, and end with peace and calm. Thank goodness.
Parenting is hard, and I believe we’re all doing the best we can.
Whether you’re a parent of little kids, big kids, furry kids, or no kids, I know you can relate. While there can be many rip-your-hair-out moments as a parent, there are far more joyous moments and reasons to celebrate. We can become inundated with information, but in the end we just need to trust ourselves.
Children are kind, intelligent, incredibly sweet, far more enlightened than we give them credit for, and simply hilarious. We need to stay in the moment, see the world through the eyes of a child, look for the pearl, and live more joyfully. Since I said I wasn’t going to give any advice, I’ll just call that homework.
Because parenting is the toughest job on the planet, and requires extraordinary endurance, and an exorbitant amount of energy, we must first show up for ourselves. We need to take care of our physical, emotional, and spiritual bodies so we can more fully take care of the precious humans we’ve been gifted. So here are some things to consider doing:
– Rise at 5 a.m. to do some quiet reading or writing or anything else that you love.
– Rise at 5 a.m. to get a workout in to a) train for a marathon, b) burn off the calories from all the Halloween candy you stole from your toddler’s pumpkin or simply, c) stay sane and be a better parent, spouse, and person as a whole.
– Be happy with where you’re at and your decisions.
– If possible, take a day for you.
– Take any help that is offered.
– Get active in the outdoors. It’s good for the body, mind, and soul.
– Give a massage, get a massage.
– Play now, clean later.
7:07 p.m the next day..
Emma tiptoed quietly into Kate’s room as I was rocking her to sleep. She kissed her, squeezed her tight, and said, “You are so beautiful and kind! You will change the world. I just love you so much. You will make the world a better place because you’re so kind.”
The tears rolled down my cheeks. Emma noticed and asked, “Why are you crying?” All I could squeak out was, “I just love you so much.” But in my heart, I thought ‘Maybe I’m doing okay as a mom. Maybe the messages and lessons I’m trying to impart to my children are really sinking in.’ Because you know what? Sometimes it’s hard to tell if they hear what I’m saying.
For instance, how many times have I said, “Put your pajamas on, brush your teeth, that’s enough chips, hands are for helping, stop hitting your sister!” But tonight, I can pause and thank God that the things I’m saying and how I’m living are making a difference.
A child’s love is unconditional, so remember this:
“It doesn’t matter what color you are. The most special thing is that you have someone that loves you.” – Four-year-old
Your spirit is strong and vibrant, so when the going gets tough, tell yourself,
“I can do this. I just have to be brave.” – Six-year-old
You are extraordinary. And maybe you’re not an athlete, or active at all, but trust yourself that you have the endurance it takes to keep going and be the best parent you can be.
Chandra Ziegler is a Yooper wannabe in Crystal Falls with a Minnesota heart. By day, she is a mother of three girls and teacher to even more. By “night,” she runs non-profit Iron Endurance, teaches yoga and painting classes, trains for marathons, and writes.
Excerpted with permission from the Spring 2020 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine. Copyright 2020, Empowering Lightworks, LLC.