Lev Dmitrivich

Today I want to say a few words about parenting.

Before having children I felt I was quite responsible and mature for my age. I had played an important part in helping my parents care for my “baby brother”, ten years my junior, and as the oldest child, that sense of responsibility was there from my earliest childhood. But when I gave birth to my own children at the ripe old age of 22 and 23, I realized just how underprepared I was. And today, five years later, I feel even less qualified to be a parent.

Have you ever noticed how each developmental period in a child’s life seems pivotal? It gets overwhelming and incredibly discouraging, thinking that this is the period where children are best at learning new languages (for example), and instead of sitting down with them for daily speaking lessons of French or reading and writing lessons in Russian, we feel quite accomplished when the kids are more or less fed and clothed and bussed off to school before 10 am. If we manage to find matching socks and at least one of them brings a backpack along, then the day is considered Successful.

Why does it seem that we are in Survival Mode while other families are doing Baby Mozart and learning to read at one (which I think is ridiculous, by the way) and playing chess at five and are eating healthy organic meals that have been planned in advance, instead of thrown together by Mom still wearing her sneakers and NASA badge? And the tragedy of the fact is that when you ARE in survival mode, you don’t eve have the time/strength/mental capacity to ask for help. You just go on autopilot and hope the teeth will get brushed of their own volition.

But the most difficult part for me has not even been the near-constant guilt of not doing better (or merely half-decent), but the fear of my children getting hurt. I don’t mean bruised knees and cat-scratched hands. I mean something serious which comes about as a direct result of my inattention or apathy. Fortunately for all parents, children seem to be mercifully resilient.

How do you determine what is an important symptom/situation that warrants full medical attention, and what is not and should be ignored for the sake of preserving your emotional and mental strength for things that matter?

I’ve been using the simple method of trial and error, but surely there has to be something better. The possibility of my child suffering is the most painful part of parenting. It is this constant and tangible burden that I was not ready for. This same weight makes it difficult for me to imagine how parents can achieve or obtain peace.

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