Recently, Dave and I bought a new car. It's a 1998 Toyota Rav-4 with only 85,000 miles on it, which is pretty outstanding. I had been driving Dave's 2004 Dodge Ram and he had been driving a clunker. The right time came, and we got a sweet deal on my Rav 4. I absolutely love it, but you wouldn't believe how different it is from the Dodge. It has a totally different set up, it has different controls and it handles much, much slower. Luckily, it came with a very handy owners manual that lets me know exactly what it's supposed to do, what it's not, when something it wrong, and what all the controls are for. Which brings me to my point.
Why do cars, which have only one basic purpose, come with owners manuals while children do not?
It will never cease to amaze me, that when you become a parent, you are immediately expected to know exactly what to do with this thing you just made. You are responsible for teaching every element of life, and giving them every basic form of knowledge that they will need to function as a person. Yet, you are given no instructions as to how best to teach them all of this. Worst of all, is that the only instructions you can find are ones written by people who do not have your child. At best they can be mildly helpful in only the most generic of terms.
Because like cars, every child is different. While your child may fit partially into one category, they will never be "textbook" anything. Because they are unique. A "fingerprint of God". Which sounds nice, but in a parenting context is nothing short of exasperating. You will never know exactly what to do with your kid, you will always be winging it, because as soon as you come to grips and find a solution to your particular problem...BAM...they hit a new developmental game and all of a sudden you are playing a brand new game.
If you haven't yet caught on, I'm feeling a little frustrated with my Tot. I love her to bits, but mylanta she's the most infuriatingly difficult child to walk the planet, I'm sure. She fits in no category, she does nothing with consistency and she follows no time honored patterns.
She hits, she kicks, she bites and she doesn't listen to any direct commands, and she does it all with a smile on her face and gladness in her heart. It's not that she's mean or angry or even willfully disobedient, she just wants to do what she wants to do and that's all she wrote. We've tried every parenting method you can name, we've tried every discipline you can think of. Each time, we are rewarded with an "I'm Sorry", a promise not to do it again, and an almost instantaneous repeat anyways.
We finally settled on an approach, figuring that consistancy was the best option, and that while it may take awhile (a long, long while) at least she will be aware that her actions will indeed cause equal and unpleasant reactions.
And here is where I yell my biggest and most sincere parenting question:
Will Everything Be This Hard????
I am expected to teach my Tot how to have a relationship with God, how to be a contributing member of society, to be a good student, to be a good citizen, to make healthy choices, to make good financial decisions, to be a good wife/mother, to ride a bike, to bake cookies, to read, to add and subtract and to vote republican and right now I'm just having a hard time getting her to pee in one designated spot.
If I'm having this much trouble teaching her the absolute basics of human functioning, how in the world am I supposed to branch out into deeper waters? WHY DOESN'T SHE COME WITH AN INSTRUCTION MANUAL????
Unfortunately, there is an answer to my age old question. No, not everything will be this hard. However, this is, and you just have to muddle through it like everyone else does.
The good news, is that no one is an expert. No one gets a kid and knows exactly what to do with them. Everyone has things that they struggle with and everyone has moments where they know in their heart of hearts that if they make it out of the toddler to teenage years with a functioning adult on their hands that it will be a complete miracle and will have nothing to do with them.
And so, I take a deep breath (okay, many many many deep breaths) and I try to find joy in the waiting. And I remember that thankfully, God started us out with toddlers instead of teenagers. If I was dealing with teaching a kid to drive before teaching them to pee, I think I would die.