Where’s The Instruction Manual?

When our kids were babies probably more than one of you thought more than once “I have no idea what I am doing – why don’t they come with instructions”? Maybe not. Some people are born with inherent parenting skills or are blessed with a strong familial support system so that they never felt overwhelmed or out of their league. I fell somewhere in the middle of all three (and I really want to meet the person who felt like they had it all together all the time with a new baby)!

I grew up taking care of my siblings so I had some parental instinct. Even still I remember many a time calling my grandma in tears when Em was an infant saying “I need a break please come get this child.” By the time Fred came along Em and I were working our way through the toddler years – and more of those phone calls to my support system. But with the arrival of Fred in my life I suddenly had a teenager and a pre-teen too. Guess what? Their instruction manual was missing too!

As a parent our beacon is to want for our kids either better than we had if we had a traumatic/terrible/less than ideal childhood or to recreate the storybook childhood we had in our minds. Even with those as our very loose guidelines parenting is like feeling your way in the dark blindfolded with your hands tied behind your back. You navigate through the toddler years hoping you don’t lose your mind from saying “no” a thousand times a day, you enjoy the age five to twelve phases when they are curious about everything and you are too cool for words, and you are dumbfounded when thirteen hits and you know nothing and can say nothing right until about twenty-five. A manual would have been helpful especially in that tough last phase…

With God’s grace, a strong support system, and a little bit of luck you get them all to adulthood. You turn out amazing human beings into the world that you are proud to call your own. But get ready. This phase is the most crucial of all. This phase is the one that if you screw it up it is worse than all the other phases combined. And you still don’t know the rules.  You are baffled when they don’t call – you once were the most important thing in their lives. When they do call you don’t know how to turn off parenting and not give advice and have no understanding as to why they didn’t heed it. And the quiet in the house will make you miss the days of bickering, blaring TV’s, and overwhelming noise lemme tell ya.

Why didn’t anyone tell you about this phase? How to let go? (Here to tell ya I bombed the test on letting go.) Probably because that damn instruction manual is still missing. You don’t know when to call and when not to. You didn’t know that when your phone lights up and it’s one of them that your heart is gonna do the simultaneous leap for joy and stick in your heart thinking something must be wrong. If they are adults, you are old enough you don’t remember the freedom you craved at their age and how your parents were the last thing you thought about as you made your own decisions and choices.  A cruel twist of getting old is you really do forget what it is like to be young. And what it was like to have that confidence that the people who love you most will always be there.

Sitting where I’m sitting now, missing my stand in parents (my grandparents), I think of all the times I wish I’d called more or gone by more. Heeded their advice when it was offered. But also with the wisdom to understand that this circle of life IS the instruction manual. We all do it to the best of our abilities and hope when we’re gone that we are remembered as strongly and as fondly as I miss them. If we are? We didn’t need the manual. We did just fine on our own.

Blessings y’all – Amy

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