Parenting Lasts

So much of parenting revolves around teaching children to do something for the first time — to walk, to talk, to use a spoon, to zip their coat, to pump the swing on their own, to swim. You spend years just teaching people how to do the things.  All the things.  Everything.

When you have multiple kids, you just keep teaching the same things over and over.  And there’s a lot of pressure on the baby.  He’s the last kid to learn to read.  Ride a bike.  Tie his shoes.  By the time you get to the fourth kid, sometimes it feels like you maybe just don’t have any patience left to teach a particular skill.  (Please, please, please are you kidding me I have to explain how to make the bunny ears and loop them together and pull them through again?!?!?  For real?!?! Can’t I just tie his shoes for him until he moves out instead?!?!)

Every new skill the baby learns is a victory, then.  But it’s coupled with a tiny heartbreak: they don’t need you to do the things for them anymore.  Check that off the list — I’ve taught four children to read.  My work here is done.  Let me go sob in the corner.

But of course, it’s not done.  Because even though they can all read and write and ride a bike, there are always new things to be learned and taught.  Just this morning I taught an 8-year old how to properly load a dishwasher, for example, so I guess my work isn’t completely finished.  Based on his performance, I think we’ll be reviewing that skill again a time or two.

And last weekend, I helped a 12-year old apply eyeliner.  Still a bit of work to do there, also.

Parenting, I’ve said before, is a series of heartbreaks.  It’s bittersweet to realize that your kids don’t need you to do something for them anymore; sad because you’re no longer the absolute center of their world, but so gratifying when you realize they’re becoming these amazing people who are fun and funny and capable and competent and talented and enjoyable to hang out with.

My baby is 6, my oldest is 12.  I have a few years of teaching left yet, and I’m grateful for them.  And I’m also grateful that they can all tie their own shoes.

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