The Most Important Parenting Lesson I Ever Learned

There is a widely quoted study in the business world called ‘the 10,000 hour rule’. The premise is simple; if you do something consistently for 10,000 hours you become an expert at it. So basically practice a skill for 20 hours a week, 50 weeks a year, for 10 years and you are an expert. If you apply this theory to parenting, one should become an ‘expert’ right around the 18 month mark. (Since parenting is a 24 hour 7 day a week job, that’s about when you hit 10,000 hours). Strangely though, I’ve yet to meet a parent with an 18 month old who claims they have this gig all figured out.

pink chai living

{Making some serious progress on #2 of my 35 before 35 list. I’ve started printing and organizing family photos finally.}

Earlier this month my son turned 10, meaning I’ve been a parent for over 80,000 hours, and this much I can promise you; I’m no expert. In fact, I’m the opposite of an expert – I’m perpetually worried. (I’m also a sleep deprived mom who’s daughter has an ear infection, so I might not have that opposite nailed exactly. I am trying to make a point though so stick with me here).

The moment we become parents the worrying begins. Is he still breathing in the crib? Does he eat enough cereal? Will he ever get out of diapers? Is he going to get along with the kids at preschool? Yesterday’s worries seem so trivial now as I find myself worrying about peer pressure, someone offering him a cigarette, or worse, asking if he wants to watch x rated programming online (this is a serious issue – google it if you have a boy and you can stomach it).

Of all the things I can worry about though, my biggest worry is that they won’t remember the manners and kindness I’ve tried to teach them when they go out into the world. I worry that they won’t be polite, they won’t hold the door open for strangers, they won’t contribute to charitable endeavours, write thank you notes, or be kind to their future spouses. I know this might sound totally ridiculous, but when I became a mom at 23 (which was totally unplanned, I was going to wait until I was 30 to have kids), I set two goals for myself as a parent; I would pay for my kids to attend whatever post secondary schooling they wanted to, and I would teach them to be polite and kind. In my mind, these two opportunities would be enough to give them a solid platform for a good life. Education plus good manners should equal some pretty well-rounded people right?

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{I can hardly believe it, but I’m actually really getting into scrapbooking!}

Some days I feel like a total failure in the manners department. Days when my kids talk back to me, drag their feet when I ask them to help out around the house, or when they flat-out refuse to do what I say. Then there are the really ugly days; when I raise my voice at them, forget to say thank you, and give long lectures that involve guilt and subliminal messaging (clearly, I’m no ‘expert’). But then, there are the most beautiful days; days when my kids do something so amazing that gives me a glimpse of the kind of people they are going to grow up and become, and reminds me of the wonderful little people they are right now.

A few weeks ago I was really down about something, and was sitting at my kitchen table trying to act like everything was ok, but my little guy (who is 10) sensing something was amiss came over, gave me a big hug and said, ‘hugs make everything better.’ That’s my boy! At the dinner table when I ask everyone about their day, he’s often the one that pipes up and says ‘wait, we didn’t ask mom about her day’, and then he really pays attention to what I tell him (to my future daughter in law; you are welcome). My little lady is 6, and she’s got spunk and attitude, but she’s also all heart. When someone is sick she’ll fluff your pillows, bring you some water, and rub your back with her tiny warm hand. At school she’s the girl who sticks up for anyone in trouble, helps kids with their jackets, and if you forgot your lunch, or just like what she got better, she’s always willing to share.

I was up in the middle of the night with Z on Friday because of the earache, and she was in so much pain it was almost unbearable. At one point as I was pinned under her in a very uncomfortable position pondering whether I should write a post about parenting, and trying to think about the most important parenting lessons. About the same time she looked up with her tear streaked face and in her tiny voice said ‘mama, thanks for staying up and taking care of me.’ In that moment I felt horrible that I couldn’t do more for her, and didn’t really need that recognition – I’m her mom, it’s my job. However in hindsight, I’ll treasure it forever because it’s the moment I learned my most important parenting lesson; your kids are always learning from you, even if they aren’t showing it in that moment.

My kids might roll their eyes when I lecture them on manners, but they are watching, absorbing, and storing it for later. I’m still no expert, but I’m certainly a little more confident in my skills as a parent this week! What is the most important parenting lesson you’ve ever learned?

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2 Comments

  1. September 25, 2014 / 11:11 am

    Oh my gosh Raj..this is such a heart warming post. I admit m a little over emotional, but this post brought tears to my eyes. Your post touched me in a way Z’s words touched u that night.
    U r a beautiful person n a phenomenal parent. I cud learn so much frm u.
    Keep rocking n stay blessed.

    -Aditi
    http://www.sosaree.in

    • September 26, 2014 / 6:38 am

      Thank you so much for sharing Aditi – we are all just doing the best we can with what we know I guess!

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