If someone had told me at 18 that I’d have two teenage daughters when I nearly doubled my age and hit 34? I’d never have believed them. I wanted to be a “Career Girl” – no way would I want to “give up” a shot at being an executive to be ‘Mom;’ which I figured squarely put me out of the “Mommy Material” club. At that point in my life, it seemed like a ‘either/or’ deal – two very different paths with divergent required skill-sets.
Fast-forward & I do have two teenage daughters. And, quite frankly, they’re pretty much who I give the lion’s share of the credit as the catalyst for who I am today. Kids? Make you grow up… or at least they did for me. A lot of the skills I have to use in my ‘professional world’ I learned first through being Lindsey & Natalie’s Mommy, like:
- Diplomacy in Difficult Situations & Crisis Management– Check. Hello, the “Terrible Threes” with Lindsey. While mild compared to some of the “terrible two” horror stories we’ve all heard; Lindsey was quite precocious at three and was into everything. At 21, I was wholly unprepared for that. That was the year she set the set the bathroom on fire, cut off all her hair, backed our mini-van into our neighbor’s garage door, and fed her sister diaper rash creme. She didn’t really understand what she was doing; but learned from & was affected by every emotional response. So, had to be mindful & thoughtful in how I resolved these situations.
- Balancing High-Maintenance Relationships & Workload – Check, Check. Rewind to Natalie’s first year. She was a “Mommy’s little girl” from the word ‘go.’ I was the only person she’d let hold her without getting fussy, (2) it had to be done a certain way, and I had to be walking while I held her. And half the time? She wanted me to be singing, too! Talk about high maintenance – I still had stuff to do & another child after all!
- Dedication & Follow-Through – Now some of you will wonder why my preceding marriage didn’t teach me this first. I got married as an infant – I was barely 18 & just ‘didn’t get it’ yet. And frankly, living with another adult takes a different kind of dedication than a child does – they can “use their words” & there’s a level of independence. Not so when you become a parent; your children are wholly dependent on you. ESPECIALLY in those first few years; you can’t ‘half-way’ feed them, or bathe them, or skirt by on caring for them. Not if you want a positive outcome, anyway. It doesn’t matter how you feel; sick, sad, tired… you can’t “call in sick” with parenting.
- Team Dynamics – Having children 15 months apart created some interesting “team dynamics” within our family. Lindsey, as the elder sibling, had “seniority” within the sibling ranks; and Natalie naturally recognized that… at first. Over time though, they’ve gone through phase shifts where they saw each other as “equal” partners, (3) where they struggled for ‘dominance’ and ‘leadership status’ within the ranks. We’ve had to deal with that age-old issue of “I’ve been here longer, so I should be in charge of [insert situation here]” vs “She’s older, but I’m better at [insert topic here] so I should be able to do this.” Inevitably, this created bickering, hurt feelings, and at times – there’s been situations where I had to help them work through pushing past feelings of resentment of not getting their way in a situation to be able to appropriately respond to their ‘team member’s’ victory. You know, sibling stuff.
(1) She actually was a VERY good little girl, overall. And in case you haven’t already noticed (because it took me years too long to), those were all my fault because I hadn’t properly realized how quickly kids move into the “into everything stages” & how HIGH they were able to climb!
(2) Unless my Dad was around, and she was cool with him, too – because he was fine with doing things on “her terms.” Also, I think she liked the reverberation of his voice from his chest when he was talking to her.
(3) typically “partners in crime” as they tried to pull the wool over our eyes on something or get into mischief.
(4) and yet one more proof that my own parents WERE right (again – they told me so & aren’t afraid to remind me of it). Wonder if I’ll get as big of a kick out of hearing “I knew best” when my kids come back and playfully ‘eat crow’ the way my parents do with me?? Probably. :p