My oldest daughter turned 7 yesterday and I found myself texting my best friend, “How is this possible? She’s halfway to a teenager but I just became a mom yesterday and I’m not even good at it yet.” And if that isn’t the truest thing that I’ve ever said—I’m not even good at it yet.
Just when you start to get the hang of anything in parenting—rocking the baby to sleep, potty training, locking the pantry door—you suddenly no longer need that skill and need a whole new one. They’ve learned to self-soothe, pee in the potty and hide snacks under their beds. I have learned that the kids are always one step ahead, and I’m constantly trying to figure out what my next move should be.
The marketer in me feels like we’re really, really, REALLY winging this whole thing. If I were launching a brand new product into the world, I would have researched what kinds of kids the world needs more of right now. I would have spent thousands of hours formulating a child to meet those demands. I would have consumer-tested the child to make sure he/she resonated with the target market. I would have anticipated possible challenges and strategized ways to overcome them. I would have formulated both long- and short-term objectives to define success….and I assure you they would have been way more measurable than, “Make it through the day.”
But there is one major problem in crafting a bulletproof parenting strategy. You don’t know your product, er I mean child, until they arrive. Every child is so perfectly unique in their own way, making it impossible to plan out how all of this will go. Of course, there is physical preparing you can do like stocking up on essentials and putting a nursery together. And on a few blue moons, you’ll scribble down a few things you want to intentionally instill in your child, and a few ways you might try to do that.
But then, you’ll quickly be pulled back into the abyss of daily life’s meal-prepping, lunch-making, drop-offing, pick-upping, clean-upping chaos. It’s totally normal…I think? I spend probably 90% of my time with three children in this abyss and maybe 10% above water, wondering if I’m doing this right, strategizing to troubleshoot problem areas and Googling things like how much longer until my kids realize their siblings are a gift? Are you sure there’s never been a kid who slept in their parents’ bed in college? Do all 3 year olds love to be naked?
If there were a way to formulate a parenting strategy that worked for every child, we’d all be amazing at this. But there just isn’t because we don’t know our babies until they arrive. And from the moment you meet them, it’s a revolving door to understand who they are and how to meet their ever-changing needs. (A magical revolving door of course, because somehow each cycle takes 300 hours, yet every 365 cycles takes only two seconds.)
So in this stage of 7 years old, I’m trying to embrace my winging it. I want to stop worrying that I’m 3 steps behind, and embrace the fact that maybe it’s right where I’m supposed to be. A few steps back, letting her forge her own path. A few steps back, to catch her if she stumbles. A few steps back, where I get to watch it all unfold.