when looking for wisdom and insight into parenting, does one really need to look further than the dowager countess of grantham? granted she is character in the fictional world of “downton abbey”. i think, however, this might actually work in her favor. when normal people, you know people who know and love you and who actually exist, give you advice, one doesn’t tend to value it nearly as much as one ought. but dress a woman in period costume, give her a upper class british accent and plunk her down in the midst of manor house glamor and suddenly we are hanging on her every word.
on the topic of parenthood, violet crawley of “downton abbey” delivers some zingers. a personal favorite of late is this one: “one forgets about parenthood. the on and on-ness of it.” a rather obvious fact, that parenthood is an ongoing, years in the making process but in the midst of it, i can forget the forest for the trees. there is always so much in the immediate that demands my attention that i can forget to see the years of parenting i have before me.
in the diaper changing, breastfeeding, sleep-deprived haze of the past, the years ahead seemed remote, a glimmer in the distant future. a place where everyone could tie their own shoes and wipe their own behinds seemed as likely as flying cars and people living on the moon. but now here i am, living in the glimmering independence of self-shoe tying and behind wiping and i see how far this road really goes. life long commitments are like that.either you die soon after making them, hardly ideal, or they last a really long time.
long ago, i accepted that there was no arrival point in marriage, no place to which you “arrived” as a couple, no place where it there were no longer struggles or where compromise was no longer required. there was no happily ever after. there was happiness but it wasn’t a natural bi-product of being married. it required a lot of self-sacrifice and hard-work.
i have finally realized the same is true of parenthood. i knew about the work and sacrifice part but i associated much of that with the physical demands of younger children. now that my kids are older, i see us moving into a new phase, one that requires a great deal of work but of a different nature. it’s relational work. figuring out what makes each one of them tick, how to make them feel love, how best to communicate constructive criticism without dashing little egos. taking time to teach them the things they need to know and throwing a little bonding time in the midst of life lessons. it’s helping little hands make dough instead of doing it myself or watching action adventure movies instead of romantic comedies. cheering from the sidelines and chauffeuring from here to there and back again.
i think i was waiting for the place where parenting started to get easy, where it was natural and effortless. but as her ladyship says it doesn’t get easier. it goes on and on. and that’s a good thing. we get the amazing privilege of investing in our children for decades. we get to watch them grow and to connect in ways that aren’t possible when they are young. it’s a bit scary as the stakes seem so much higher. their mistakes are no longer solved with a magic eraser and a timeout. but it’s thrilling at the same time. to quote my lady one last time “it’s so encouraging to see the future unfurl. as long as you remember it will bear no resemblance to the past.”