Parenting can be one of the most rewarding vocations, and it can be completely exhausting and draining. I remember reading a quote when my oldest was a baby that said, “the thing about kids is that once you have them, there they are.” So true. It isn’t a part time hobby or something you can pop in on from time to time. You can’t put it down for a while and then come back to it. Whether you are asleep, at work, on vacation, in the bathroom, shaving your legs, writing the next great novel, finding a cure for cancer, or trying to stop global warming, once you become a parent, apparently you stay a parent. At any moment, someone could vomit, urinate, cry, fight, hit someone, break something, irritate the dog, feed the dog something that will cause him to vomit or urinate, lose a sock, lose both shoes, bump their head, spill on their favorite shirt, spill on their sibling’s favorite shirt, or any number of crisis-inducing mishaps.
The flip side is that at any moment, without warning, children can hug you for no reason, shine a smile on you that will light up your day, share with their siblings without being asked, clean up their room, make a picture, tell you a joke, give you a sticky kiss, and warm your heart in a way that could never be explained to someone that has never loved someone so hard it hurts. My older two children will sometimes call out of the blue or send me a one-line text that makes me laugh and smile and I could dance on air. My youngest is usually with me so the mobile communication is not necessary. But, we have our inside jokes. He can make me bend over with belly laughter until I have tears coming down my face. I sent a joke email to Mark and Timmy that them both laugh so hard they started coughing and had to leave the room that they were in. Shared memories, shared laughter…even when you are not in the same state or country…brings people together every time.
Where does the sieve come in? Well, let’s face it. Parenting is certainly not all fun and games and sometimes it all falls apart when we have the least amount of time and patience. That’s when we need a sieve. Picture this: it is 7 am, you are trying to get ready for work and supervise breakfast and your 10 year old confesses that he has not finished his homework that had been reported done when he wanted to play outside yesterday. In fact, he doesn’t even know where the math sheet is. And he can only find one shoe. And it is fancy hat day. At that moment, your pantyhose rip and your head starts to pound and the vocal chords of the ages start to rise in your throat with the force of a deadly volcano.
Stay with me here. You can let the anger of the collective parental volcano rise up through your mouth OR you can be a sieve. Take a deep breath. Tell the child you need two minutes of quiet to finish getting dressed for work. During those two minutes, get dressed but also breath very slowly and deeply, thinking about how much you adore this child. Really. Breath again just to make sure. Now, since you probably know where the other shoe is, just tell him without the snarky remark. Surely you have a basket of hats someplace. Even a Santa hat or an old beach hat will do. Is the math sheet available on the computer? If yes, that is easy enough. If no, a quick email to the teacher will probably remedy the situation and the child can do that math sheet at lunch…perhaps even teaching a lesson that getting your work done ahead of time is more fun than missing lunch. The biggest thing here is that whether it works out for this particular math sheet or not, the behavior that you just modeled to your child was calm, in control, fair, and stable. When we lose it and start screaming like raving lunatics (we’ve all been there), all they hear is that we are really mad, we may not even love them any more, and they have completely failed us. That’s not really the lesson that we want to send our child into the day with, is it? Probably not.
Be a sieve. Let the anger flow through you and out the other side. Let the frustration go. Teach, discipline, guide with words spoken at a decibel level that the child will hear and understand. Lessons of love and life are available to us within our families every day, but I can tell you that the days speed by so grab each lesson and use it. But most importantly what we want to collect and hold on to in our sieve is the love and the goodness and the amazing sticky memories. They are there every day. Our children are intrinsically good. See the good. And, I am not talking about letting our children be like Lord of the Flies. Lessons and discipline and consequences are vital for them to grow and to become the men and women that we know they are capable of being. But I know for sure, from the center of my being, that children hear calm and loving voices much more clearly than they hear yelling voices. The yelling voices sound like the bwah bwah bwah of the adults in Charlie Brown. Be the clear voice. Be the voice that guides and be the parent that looks at their sieve each night like a treasure chest of goodness. All the memories, the half eaten waffles, the laughter…this is the good stuff. Cherish every moment!