What does it take to be a good parent?
Let's start at the beginning. For some, it's their dream to bring children into the world. For others, it's a stark surprise. Either way, the miracle of being able to create another human being is life changing.
There's not a day that goes by that I don't look at my kids and think, "Wow. I made them." I mean, I MADE them. Crazy, right? So I figure I brought them into this world, and it's my job to act as their tour guide.
There's no magic parenting handbook to follow. I started out looking for one - devouring every sentence of the "What to Expect" series like it was a pint of Häagen-Dazs chocolate chocolate chip ice cream. But while these books can give you an outline of how things are going to go, they're no match for what you'll encounter.
Those first few years, I was parenting at the speed of light. I breastfed. I made sure we had plenty of skin-on-skin contact. I didn't talk baby talk to them. I tried to teach them sign language. I made my own baby food. I took them places so their infant brains could experience animals, nature, science, technology. I played classic rock and oldies instead of Barney and Raffi. During their toddler years, I filled their days with homemade playdough, crafts and playdates with neighbor kids so they could learn all those social skills. I read to them. Every day. We played matching games. Flash cards.
Good God. I was a freak.
As they got older, I made sure they knew their address and phone number. Taught them about stranger danger and how to cross the street. Made them wear their helmets. Tried to make sure they got an adequate balance of calories, fat, protein and carbs. Showed them how to brush their teeth correctly. Took them to church. Started holiday traditions. Baked cookies. Tried to discipline them out of love and not anger. Boost their self-esteem by telling them what great kids they were, while still teaching them how to be humble.
Now it's getting to crunch time. Why? Because I'm wondering if it was enough. And if it was, will it make any difference? They are at that age where I've lost them a little bit to that big, bad outside world. Cursing. Violence. Peer pressure. Alcohol. Drugs. Sex. Hatred. Bigotry. Will they be strong enough to overcome? How much of who they turn out to be will be as a result of me and how much will be as a result of them? And will I be strong enough to handle what happens to some of the best parents when their kids choose a wrong path? Will I blame myself? Should I blame myself?
I understand that you give a child roots, and then you give him wings. I understand that parents lay the foundation, and it's up to the child to build the house. I know I'm in for some rough years ahead, and I'd like to be confident enough in myself as well as my children to think that they will rise above and remember the sign language, the playdough, the stranger danger talks, the hugs and the esteem-building enough to fight off all the temptations that come their way. But I also know that's not always the case.
So I wait. And I hug. And I hope. And I pray. And I look at my children every day and wonder how they'll turn out. I don't know what to expect. There's no book for that. What I do know is that they were brought into this world for a reason, and whatever that is, I hope I've done everything I can possibly do to ground them yet let them soar.