I’ve always believed that the Most Wonderful Time of the Year was Christmas, but according to a certain office supply chain, it’s actually right now. The kids “are going BAAAACCCK!” Joyous parents jump through the aisles collecting school supplies. Parents are getting rid of their kids; what could be better?
Excuse me? I know summer can be tough. Finding childcare for two months is a challenge. Even if one parent is at home, having kids around constantly is a lot of work, because without the school year routine, they often get lazy and grumpy and bicker more. It’s only natural to yearn for a return to normality.
But that doesn’t mean that we should be ecstatic about getting away from our kids. And if this particular emotion actually does sell back-to-school items, what does that say about us as a society? Parents consider kids a big bother, and would be infinitely grateful if they would just go away.
Is that how we really feel? If children are a hassle, though, rather than a blessing, I’m not sure that this is our children’s fault. Could it be that we have abandoned the parts of parenting that make it tolerable, and forgotten the parts that make it fun?
While on vacation last week I watched Supernanny. It’s hard to imagine the chaos these parents put up with. Their children do not obey them, refuse to go to bed, hit them, swear at them, and tear up the house, let alone urinating on neighbours’ lawns. Parents’ lives are consumed by responding to what their children do. That’s a lot of work! The nanny shows them is that if they work at basic discipline, parenting is so much easier and much more fun.
Many people love their kids, but they don’t like being with them because they’ve inadvertently trained them to be brats. It is up to us as parents to teach kids limits and appropriate behaviours. If they’re bothering you because the house is always a mess, teach them to clean it up. If they’re always loud and beating each other up and getting into fights and crying, don’t put up with it. Issue one warning and then take away privileges. If we put in the work to parent, maybe we wouldn’t resent the kids so much because they wouldn’t be holy terrors.
However, there’s another side to the parenting equation than just learning to discipline. We also need to learn to play. In our age of entertainment, we like doing what we want to do. We don’t want to do what a 4-year-old wants to do, so our response to children who want one-on-one time is to mollify them with some treat just so they will go away. That’s a mistake. The best joy in life, I believe, is found in a stable family that truly loves each other. Such love is not born automatically of genetics. It’s found in spending time together and building memories. That doesn’t mean you don’t have a life; it just means that every so often, you need to step into your children’s lives to show them that you care.
If we loved our kids like that, perhaps September would no longer feel like the most wonderful time of the year. It would be a mixed bag of hope and excitement for our children’s upcoming opportunities, and sadness at the passage of time. They grow up so quickly. Let’s raise them well and hug them while we have them. For us parents, these are, after all, the most wonderful years of our lives.