Once upon a time a young lady thought she found her prince. Maybe he was a bit uncouth at times, a bit too sure of himself, and rather stubborn, but not even princes were perfect. At least, that is what she told herself. She left her home to embark on her happily-ever-after with her prince, but after just a short while she realized that her story was more of the Grimm variety than the Disney. This particular young lady possessed her own stubborn streak and a deeply compassionate soul that believed everyone worthy of love. When not with others, the prince’s charming veneer vanished to reveal the ogre within. Still, she tried for a long time to teach the prince to love. As time passed, she became a mother, and in spite of the prince’s crushing rule, she discovered an inner core of strength and determination.
One day the prince raised his voice in harsh condemnation towards his daughter and the mother could no longer deny the truth. He was no prince at all, but a monster in the guise of one. She faced her fears and drove the monster from their midst…sort of.
.. And lived happily ever after?
No, not so much.
All one has to do to know that monsters exist is read the news. Well, one might have to dig a little. Celebrity gossip and sports occupy insane amounts of coverage. Little things like violence, political corruption, erosion of our Constitutional rights, and economic issues, to mention a few, are relegated to brief blurbs. We are mired in the Disney version of life. T.V. shows and other media bombard us with ridiculous petty crap and insist that who gets voted off an island is IMPORTANT. We NEED this gadget or that. The trivial and superficial rules. Life and relationships should be easy. NEWS FLASH: They are lying. Lies sell better than truth. The truth is that life does not have happily-ever-afters. We can have moments of great joy, plateaus of mediocrity, and valleys of despair, but nothing remains static. To live and breathe is to experience ongoing change.
The most difficult task I face in life is not graduate school or writing my next novel, but raising empathetic and confident children. I believe those two traits are key to a balanced individual. If one has empathy for others, one makes decisions in as kind a manner as possible. It tempers anger, fosters respect, compassion, responsibility, and understanding. Anyone who has more than one child and has refereed sibling fights can sympathize with my fear that they’ll never learn empathy. I teach by example, but trying to overshadow the numerous bad examples they see is a daunting task.
Confidence is a difficult thing to teach. I’m not entirely sure one can teach it. I can encourage, but confidence is a feeling that is earned over time. One must find it within oneself, for it can’t be given to you. It is standing up for and believing in oneself when others would dismiss us or worse. Confidence is much like a seed that I give soil, water, and light. I can provide an encouraging environment, but I can’t actually make it grow.
Children amuse us, as many of my blog posts demonstrate, but they can also frustrate a parent to no end. Perhaps that is because there isn’t a single right way to teach them, but there’re a million wrong ways as well. The don’t come equipped with handbooks, and those of us who care are terrified of screwing them up for life. Parenting is difficult enough for a unified team. Divorced parenting, in some instances, can be one of Dante’s circles of Hell.
Miss Diva read a book titled Dinosaur Divorce. I’m sure the author wrote it with the intention of comforting kids and giving families a guideline, but again, too much Disney and not enough Grimm can lead to unrealistic expectations. Miss Diva asked why her dad couldn’t be nice like the dinosaur dad. Why was our situation so much more complicated? Such questions put my heart in a vice. I WANT the happy-ever-after for her. I WANT life to treat her fairly. It infuriates me that I can do very little to accomplish either of those. The best answer I could give was that it was fiction and life is generally far more complicated. The lesson that I, as a mother, must learn is that I cannot fix everything. I can’t always make everything better.
They are harsh and difficult lessons, for both parties. I try to approach parenting with equal parts love and discipline. In my moments of panic, I recall that hugs can fix a lot of things, or at least make them bearable, and that countless generations before me managed, on the whole, to produce good people. My mother was fascinated with genealogy for many, many, many years. I can safely say that my family tree is not laden with serial killers, psychos, lazy bums, or any other of the myriad things that mothers pray their children don’t become (like circus clowns).
I ask all those parents out there, how do you cope with your fears and anxieties of screwing up your kids? How do you fight the bombardment of crap? Perhaps most importantly, how do you convince them not to make the same mistakes you did?