Kenny Rogers wrote that iconic song about a poker game strategy that was really a metaphor for life when he stated that knowing when to hold and knowing when to fold your hand was the way to go. The same could be said for parenting. I was always told to pick my battles but there was the rub. What should be a battle and what should I let go?
I recall when my kids were young that often when they asked if they could do something or go to an event or a friend’s house, my stock answer would be “maybe”. One time after I answered that way, I heard one say to the other in the back seat of the car “When Mom says maybe, she means no”. I was stunned! I realized that they had thought the “maybe” answer was for them when really the answer was to give myself time to consider the request and make sure I made the right decision. Was it then always a “no” after my consideration? Perhaps it was. Let’s just say that for many years I felt confused about whether I should “hold ‘em” or “fold ‘em”.
There is no manual for parenting. There is only your own parent’s style of child rearing or maybe your grandparent’s or aunt or uncle’s or the family next door. We all learn by example. I have certainly said to myself that I would do things differently then the previous generation and have heard my friends say the same things. But did I? Was I strong enough to forge new methods of child raising or was I relying on the old standbys? Certainly there was a plethora of books and advice out there to refer to. Let your baby cry himself to sleep or he’ll always want to sleep in your bed. Don’t let your child cry himself to sleep or he will feel abandoned. Feed your baby on demand. Don’t feed on demand, set a regular schedule. Give time outs for bad behaviors. What happens if your child stamps their foot and refuses to time out? You can appreciate the confusion. What to do? Am I a good parent? Have I ruined my children, made them afraid, distrustful, angry, sad? What kind of a mother was I??
The answer of course is a normal one. We all do the best we can with what we have. Sometimes I see what my adult children are doing or how they are reacting to something and I wonder if I should have done something differently. But they are individuals with their own minds and ways of doing things. And I need to let it all go and just feel blessed that I am still a part of their lives.
And oh yes, very happy that I am not a poker player.