Parenting is a never-ending ride of emotions. After getting past the baby and toddler years when it seemed my kids were constantly coming up with new ways to keep me on my toes, there have been a few times when I’ve sat back and declared smugly, “I’ve got this parenting thing figured out.” Usually, within twenty-four hours of that feeling of success and great accomplishment, my kids come up with some new way to remind me that it’s far from smooth sailing until they are grown up and out of our home living lives of their own.
My husband and I have consistently tried to teach our children one particular life lesson from day one – If you’re true to yourself and your beliefs, it doesn’t really matter what other people think about you.
As our kids get older, we’ve found many opportunities to reinforce this belief. Every day can bring on uncharted social territory that they must learn to navigate – sometimes with our help and other times on their own. I have defused many a situation with the words, “Can you control other people’s actions?” followed by “Does it matter what other people think as long as you are doing the right thing?” You would be surprised at how easily they accept this, and I walk away thinking, “Nailed it.”
When It Comes to Parenting, Can You Ever Predict What Comes Next?
About a month ago, I began to notice my son was doing this weird thing with his eyes. It started as a sporadic blink that made me wonder if glasses were in his future. It progressed to a full facial movement that was impossible for me to ignore. Like any good mom, I nagged him about it – Why are you doing that? You’re going to give yourself headaches. Can’t you just stop? It’s really distracting.
Being the obedient son that he sometimes chooses to be, he stopped his blinking and facial movements and replaced it with a constant sniffing noise. Not a good trade. I’m clearly not a fast learner because I used the same tactic to prevent the sniffing that I had employed previously – Why are you doing that? You’re going to agitate your nose. Do you make that constant noise in school?
I wanted so desperately for there to be a logical answer as to why he was doing this that I convinced myself it was allergies and took him to the doctor. We spent a week on allergy medicine and saline spray to watch the sniffing turn into a complete jerking of his shoulders because he was breathing in so aggressively.
Since nagging wasn’t working, I moved onto the research phase of parenting and took to Google. Once I weeded through some of the crazy, I found tons of articles informing me that these types of random tics are common in boys my son’s age and rarely progress past a year. Their advice on the best approach – ignore it. I had clearly not nailed it. Poor parenting choice aside, I had my answers (reinforced by my pediatrician) and, therefore, I no longer needed to be concerned, right?
Answers aside, I continued to obsess even though I knew there was nothing medically wrong with him and one day this would just be something for the odd things we deal with as parents book. Do you want to know the slap me in the face truth as to why I couldn’t let it go? I was worried about what other people might think. That’s right. The one thing I’ve tried to instill in my children from day one was the one thing I wasn’t able to accomplish myself.
I emailed his teachers under the guise of “giving them a heads up” but I really just wanted to see if the other students were making fun of him. One of his teachers hadn’t even noticed it until I brought it to her attention. The other let me know there was, at least, one other student in the class with something similar. I confided in friends to discover that others had dealt with this exact same thing. I was shocked at everyone’s nonchalance. Didn’t they see what I saw? Surely, people would whisper behind his back wondering what was wrong with him. Obviously, other kids would laugh. Would he no longer “fit in?”
One Humbling Leg at a Time
At a recent baseball game, he was having a particularly good night hitting the ball and more importantly, he was having a lot of fun. I noticed his random movements were worse that night, and my brain began to focus on that more than the awesome game he was playing until something snapped me out of it. The pitcher for the other team was doing something similar with his eyes. Then I looked over to see another boy about the same age with his own random habit. It was this oddly beautiful symphony – each child playing the same tune but with an instrument uniquely their own – and not a single other kid on the field noticed or cared.
I said at the beginning of this blog that parenting is a never ending ride of emotions. I don’t have it all figured out. I will mess up and sometimes straight up fail. Even the greatest of parenting moments are just small victories in one leg of a very long race, and the minute we get too comfortable is the minute we lose sight of the big picture. Most importantly, I have been reminded that although it’s good to teach my kids life lessons, the humbling power of motherhood is a constant reminder to never forget that I’m still learning a few lessons of my own.