We have five kids.
Raising kids is hard work.
Work that often goes unrewarded.
What other work do you do where you dedicate yourself to it 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, for the rest of your life?
Without monetary compensation. Without raises or bonuses. Often without kudos, pats on the back, or any other form of positive reinforcement.
Leah, our oldest daughter. Strong willed from birth. I read as many books as I could get my hands on to try to understand how to do this new job of parenting. I had to learn not to say “no” all the time. A wise preschool teacher gave me the best advice a parent can get, “catch them being good.”
All without a manual or how-to book. And, in my case, without the benefit of having had loving, caring parents who were good role models from which I could base my own parenting. Yes, my parents were role models in what NOT to be as a parent.
Michelle, our niece by birth, who came to live with us when she was a teenager. I call her a survivor. She is strong. One of her teachers from grade school told me, off the record, that she would survive because she was “spunky”.
Yes, there are the kisses and hugs and sweet messages when they are young. Most of this goes away when they hit the middle school and teenage years. Raising kids through these ages can be tough on the old self-esteem. And we lived through 16 straight years of having teenagers in our home.
Rachel, our middle child, and DSH’s mini-me. She organized shoes, climbed out of her crib, and stood on top of the piano by the time she was 15 months old. She comes by her career of choice, engineering, honestly. Tenacious. Independent. Fun loving.
We have five kids.
Five kids with different personalities. While we have been consistent, we have also had to adjust our parenting strategies with each child to meet their unique personalities and needs.
Katy, one of our two youngest children, the “older” twin. Sweet, kind, generous, and affectionate and totally unlike her sisters (just kidding . . . maybe). The one kid we can always count on to get hugs and kisses.
Jacci, our baby, and the younger of our twins. Strong willed like her oldest sister. From day one, this child required that you respect her personal space. She, perhaps, feels the most strongly about family traditions and takes longer to accept change. Loyal. Dedicated. Risk taker.
I have always been a parent filled with self-doubt and with self-esteem issues related to my own upbringing. When I became a parent, I wanted to do better. I wanted to raise my kids to be happy, healthy, productive members of society. I wanted them to be independent and to be able to take care of themselves, but to also enjoy the benefit of having strong relationships if that was their choice.
And, logically, I understood that there would be no extrinsic rewards for being a good parent. DSH and I know that we have, for the most part, done a good job parenting our children, and, while we aren’t done yet, we are mostly done. We are at the stage of seeing the results of our nearly 30 years of parenting (gulp). Yes, we have been parenting more than half our lives!
Yesterday, our youngest daughter, who is studying abroad in Argentina, posted a picture and message on my Facebook page. I sent her a box of Easter candy and some fruit snacks (one of her favorite things in the world). She took a picture of it and said, “Coming home to find this Easter package just made my day! I have some pretty awesome and dedicated parents.”
We have five kids.
We are awesome and dedicated parents.
Note: The pictures of our girls in this post are those which I have on my phone and which pop up when they call me. They represent, to me, features of their personalities that I love.