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  • Parenting: The Imperfect Process

    Sometimes when I can't sleep, I write... So here goes.

    As much as I love my children, parenting has to be the hardest job in the world.

    December, as anyone who has read this knows, is birthday month at our house.  Nicholas, Ben and Emma have birthdays within three days of each other, and the twins are the same age as Katharine for two weeks and two days, until her birthday on Dec. 27.

    As a result, the period between Thanksgiving and Christmas — that never-too-stressful time the rest of you call the holiday season — is no picnic for us.

    I don’t mean to complain. It also is a time of tremendous joy and pride, to see that they have made it through another year on this earth with 12 more months of life experience under their belts. And that holds true even if the months and days haven’t always been the easiest.

    When people hear the story about having three kids in a single calendar year, they often shake their heads and say how tough that period must have been. And there’s no denying that it was hard on the body (and sometimes spirit) because of the sheer amount of work required.

    But when they ask if it’s easier now, I can’t say that it is. It’s just, as I may have mentioned before, different. The physical demands are nothing compared to the psychological stamina that raising three teenagers (with a fourth, Jeremiah, as a value add) requires. 

    I hated being a teenager, and I’ve never understood why people look back nostalgically on their those years and refer to them as the best time ever. In many respects, life didn’t really start for me until I was in my 30s, even though there were some memorable events and occurrences that took place before then.

    What I’ve learned, although I’m not always good at practicing what I preach, is that letting them find their own way is more difficult than I imagined it would be when I was a teen. And as anyone who knows us knows, we’ve raised a brood that is choosing paths that are taking them in many different, divergent directions.

    The natural, almost innate trust that you have in your children (and vice versa) is chipped at as they grow up and push boundaries in directions no one anticipated or came fully equipped to deal with. Accompanying that is a sense of — and I’m not sure this is the right word — fear. 

    Fear, as you know, is something that constantly nibbles at trust. It sits there whispering in a voice that hasn’t been that steady or persistent since your spouse was carrying the child (or children) in the womb, or the (literal) birth day. Recently, I mentioned that I used to say that 99 times out of 100, nothing would go wrong. Pretty good odds, except when you become a parent, you worry about the 1.

    Parenting is not linear or autocratic, although it requires a form of upper management skills that can and should out earn even the highest-paid CEOs. It is a form of shared responsibility that is far messier than democracy. As parents, Jill and I have done our best to raise our kids in the best way we know how, but it is by no means a perfect process. And — at least in my case — no amount of effort will earn an “A.”

    If you’ve taken the time to read this far, don’t be alarmed. Writing is how I process, and there’s a lot of that to do every year around this time. We’ve been so busy this fall that our vacation in St. Thomas feels like it was six years — not six months — ago.

    All in all, things have been good. They could always be better (and as I struggle to remind myself at times, will be), but I would not trade my family and this time with my kids for anything.

    Not even a regular, full-time job, but if that comes along, I’m game. Compared to parenting, anything else is bound to be a piece of cake.