The Rule of the House
There is a story that circles around our family lore, going something like this. One of my cousins was in school, and the teacher was talking about rules. She explained the rules of the classroom, and then asked if any of the children had rules at home. What were they? There were the usual responses regarding bedtime, hitting, etc. My cousin thought long and hard. Finally she came up with, "No dancing naked on the piano." This would just be one example of a rule that no mother ever thought she'd have to enforce. You dream of teaching them right from wrong, and you know you will have to warn them away from dryers, outlets, stoves, drugs, immodesty, swearing, violence, gambling, piercings, tattoos, bad influences, germs, alcohol, and a whole host of other things. Then you become a mother and you find yourself enforcing rules like "No snails in the house" and you wonder how you will ever get to it all. Here's the secret: You Won't. The truth is, we cannot teach them everything. It is simply beyond the realm of possibility. But, yet, as mothers, we try. I remember being in tears because my oldest child could not swim by the age of four. I have a thing with swimming - I'm scared of it. I had this really super irrational fear of my children drowning, and even though logically I knew that the best way to prevent them from drowning was to teach them to swim, I also knew that if they weren't in the water, they wouldn't drown that day. I have had to work through it, and the two oldest are currently in swim lessons twice a week, and doing well. They're not completely "there" yet, but I am hoping that by the end of the summer, they will be. But I could not teach them to swim. Now, I know how to swim. I've been swimming since I was two. But I could not throw my child in the water and yell "kick, kick, kick!" I could just hold on to them, and pray the whole time we were in the pool that nobody would drown. (Did I mention this was a seriously irrational fear?) So I had to turn them over to somebody else. I had to let someone else teach them that particular lesson, and it has been very difficult for me to do it. But swimming is a fundamental skill. They will need that as they grow up. Basic. I was in tears because I couldn't give them that, and I couldn't give them that because of my fear, not theirs. They wanted to swim. They still want to swim. So now they swim, and all I can do it watch, and smile every time they hit a new milestone. And be grateful that this fear, at least, isn't winning anymore. We need to stop thinking we can teach them everything, or that we can prepare for every scenario. There are other capable people on this planet. They may not know your children as well as you do, or love them as much. But then again, they might. And they can contribute. In the meantime, I'll keep some flexibility in my rule-making abilities. After all, in a few years, "Snaily" (actual name of the poor homeless snail on our porch) won't need my help anymore, but my children still will.