I’ve known this for years, but the reasons are elusive. For those of you who haven’t heard. . Band-Aids can cure almost all ills. They are good for the obvious cuts, scratches and scrapes, but they can also cure rashes, itches, bumps and those formidable invisible boo-boos that, without a Band-Aid, are sure to kill anyone under seven. The thing that stumps me is that children need band-Aids, want Band-Aids, crave band aids only to scream louder when the band aids are ripped off. The manufacturers have made Band-Aids with super heroes, Band-Aids with cartoon characters, flower power Band-Aids, Band-Aids that are ouchless, Band-Aids that breathe and there are even Band-Aids you can paint or spray on. It’s a treasure trove of ways to make our youngsters feel better.
We all hope, wish and pray that all our children ever need is a Band-Aid to make their hurts go away. Their mental and physical health is the supreme gift. It makes everything else possible. So, if our children are blessed with good health, how do we communicate that nothing less than their best is acceptable?
As the mother of two young women I know that my ability to make everything better wanes as they get older. Combined with the fact that their problems become more complex, you soon realize that the hard work and time spent preparing them for adulthood was extraordinarily worthwhile. It merits a big swipe of the forehead and a loud “Whew!” Believe me, it wasn’t always a walk in the park. There were dramatic outbursts, crying, screaming, threatening and door slamming. And my kids were great kids! They, in spite of my “meanness” and “unfairness,” are amazing people. So I’m often asked, “What did you do?”
First of all, they came to me with their own set of individual gifts and personality traits. I got lucky on that count. They also had their own set of challenges. They were stubborn, manipulative and occasionally downright disrespectful. They grew, in fact, into teenagers. Often I felt that the punishment affected me more than them. It was certainly harder on me. I had to stay in when they had to stay in. I had to listen to the crying and last longer than they did. I had to stick to my guns even after the thousandth time they asked me to change my mind. I had to NOT kill them while WE were suffering the consequences of a bad choice THEY made.
So now I have the opportunity to help others get through the years of child rearing. After I get beyond the sympathy I have for parents, I remember the feelings of pride. It’s got to be the greatest plan ever! Children grow inside a mother. She feels them kick and move and can’t wait to meet her new baby, face to face. The pain of childbirth is replaced in seconds with love and gratitude. The newborn is totally reliant on mom and dad for EVERYTHING! The nights of sleeplessness are replaced with the baby’s first smile and first words. Children then become adorable and funny. They provide endless entertainment. Parents get to see the world again through new eyes and partake in each “first” their child encounters. There is the first step, the first tinkle in the toilet, the first day of completely dry big girl or big boy pants. Those firsts are followed by the first day of kindergarten, the first goal in soccer or hit in T-ball, learning to tie their shoes, learning to read, and the first school play. Parents delight in the lives of their children. It seems like our very existence was meant to parent. And then those sweet things wake up one morning and they are teenagers. By then, and this is where the plan really starts working, we are hopelessly in love with our children even though they can make an hour seem like days and an ordinary day seem like a soap opera. We put up with their ridiculous antics, try to guide them as best we can and they still seem like they are working hard at making us miserable. Something takes over their bodies and their brains function in a strange and unusual way. The phone is attached to their ear, their fingers can’t seem to do anything but text, and the computer is their world.
Teenagers can have a dozen or two people that they are Instant Messaging with and they keep up with each conversation, including the one on the phone, but they can’t seem to get a one page paper done with any degree of clarity.
They can manipulate you, all the while seeming logical, yet they have trouble figuring out how to get their rooms clean. They sulk, they cry, they seem depressed, their very lives are a drama, yet they don’t want to be in the school play. They can’t wait to get out of the house to be with their friends because, all of a sudden, parents don’t know ANYTHING! They get more expensive and less appreciative.
There are respites from the challenges of living with a teenager. There are more wonderful firsts; the first honor roll, their first crush, the first formal dress or tuxedo, the first dance, followed by graduations, college acceptances and first jobs. It’s quite a journey, full of ups and downs. It’s the hardest job in the world, if done well. It’s the most rewarding, too.
And when they leave to live the life you’ve spent years preparing them for, you are left with an empty nest and memories. You are laid off from the best job you ever had, or at the very least, the job description undergoes a major change. You miss them and you miss being their full time Mom, all the while being proud of who they’ve become. It’s exciting and sad, and it leaves a wound that doesn’t heal easily. Oh dear, I think I need a Band-Aid. I’m going to put it right over my heart.