On the day you were born, God gave your parents a rule book. It gave them all the instruction necessary for raising their specific child. Ever thoughtful, He replaced it with updates as needed every two to three weeks when all of the old rules inevitably were outdated. New books came with each child to account for the differences in personality.
It was very simple.
Those who followed the rules of the rulebooks were heroes. Those who did not were villains. For you, there were many villains.
Now that you have children of your own, you see that the rulebook has not changed, only internet updates are available to remind you. It seems more complicated and yet it is not. How to make baby sleep, how to make toddler obey, how to quiet the articulate thinker so you can read one blog post, how to calm the pre-teen, how to keep the teenager’s eyes in place without rolling.
You can understand why those conversations you have with yourself late at night are so logical. You are not following the rulebook, the step by step instructions on how to be a good parent. If you could only follow the instructions, their lives would culminate in the great understanding that you were their greatest hero. No hero ever succumbs to the role of villain, not even for a moment, for a second, for a thought. Only villains do that.
The good news is you knew the rulebook never existed.
There’s No Rulebook in Parenting
Parenthood alternates in terrifying and thrilling qualities. Adulthood can do the same, in general, although it is easier to stay scared, to hide in the dark, hoping the rulebook somewhere says, “stay put.”
It does not.
In parenthood, the parents must keep moving, keep adapting. Just when you think you’re licked, the toddler crawls up into your arms, puts his arms around you, and squeezes your shoulders because that is as far as his chubby little hands reach. Your oldest dresses without being told, eager to please you, saying she slept well the night before. You wonder if it is true, or if you just guilted her with your words last night, adding one more rung to that complex she will carry around as an adult.
We are the heroes of their story, but we are so fallible. Only when we reach maturity do we understand the rulebook was wishful thinking.
We are meant to make mistakes. You are meant to make mistakes.
You are human.
Your mistakes lead to make-up kisses.
Your Past Doesn’t Define Your Present or Future
The villains were not villains because they did not follow the rulebook.
They were villains because they did not love you. They sought to use you no matter what the consequences. Or they neglected you, forgetting about you as soon as you left the room when they should have kept you always in the back of their mind.
You will succeed. You’ll be the wounded healer, the broken hero, the truthful mother who brings her children to life or the humbled father who shows the way. You have it all within you to succeed.
And I know you will. You are writing the rulebook as you go, changing it every two or three weeks when all of the old rules become outdated.
The best part of your rulebook is the clause you added after your first child, which you try ever so hard to follow but often forget entirely, “go easy on yourself.”
You got this.
Kathryn Anne Casey is a graduate of Divine Mercy University, freelance writer, housewife and mother of four children. Her weekly newspaper column “Here’s to the Good Life!” and blog focus on art, psychology, consumerism and the importance of local community. You can find out more about her here.