Our job is probably one of the most interesting and fun jobs in the world! My husband Richard and I get to travel widely meeting the wonderful families of the world. We have recently returned from a five week trip to Australia and China. There we found to be true what we realize every time we do an extended trip overseas: no matter where people live…Europe, Asia, India, the Middle East, or across the street, parents want the same things for their children. They want them to have integrity, to be happy, to be honest, courageous, respectful and full of love. They want them to internalize healthy values.
Having said that, lifestyles of families, whether it be because of the weather, traditions or the government, are vastly different. In China we found that wealthy parents were often sending their children away to boarding schools in the U.S., Australia or England. Sometimes the children are only about ten years old. Some parents wait until middle school and many send them for high school. As hard as that sounds to me, who loves teenagers and wouldn’t miss a day of that fun high school experience for anything (well I guess there are some days here and there that would be fun to miss), the parents are in touch daily by phone, email and sometimes even video conferencing.
On the other hand, in Australia parents laugh about the fact that their children never leave home. They have a terrific school system from elementary through college and they say that there is just no reason for them to leave home. When we asked what they do when they get married, they laugh and say that they just find a good spouse who moves right in as well. Although that is an exaggeration, it did teach us, once again how diverse cultures can be. In Jeddah, Saudi Arabia teenage girls can’t drive…ever…and have to rely on drivers to get them where they want to be.
Last week in Toronto where we again found cultural differences, even with our neighbors just across the border, we ended our seminar with the challenge to remember how much fun they are having with their parenting. There was a visible “ah-ha” feeling in the audience as they followed up with questions and comments about how difficult their job as parents is! Comments like “you wouldn’t think I was having much fun as I struggled to get the kids out the door to school this morning” or “I hadn’t thought about having fun…I’m just in survival mode,” came to us over and over again.
Looking back on thirty eight years of parenting, I realize that the times I remember, other than a few crazy days like when we left four year old Eli at airport or sixteen year old Jonah was hit by a car while running across the street to the high school, were the fun times! When we get together for reunions we talk about the fun we experienced together, not only on family trips but also hauling rocks at Bear Lake in the summer.
Still, on the day-to-day, it’s hard to remember how much fun you’re having! Parenting is a grueling job. Every day contains at least one and sometimes multiple crisis. Kids go through stages that drive us crazy including the frustration of potty training, kids crawling in bed with us in the night when we’re too tired to get up and “put them back” and we feel as though we’ve been sleeping in a washing machine all night. Kids are sometimes disrespectful, disobedient and strong-willed. Some have learning disabilities and others have friends that aren’t good influences. The list goes on and on.
BUT the bottom line is that no matter how hard it is, there are always those moments each day that remind you that you’re having fun. Look for them and rejoice in the moment because this time with your children will come only once! Every day is different and even as you try to internalize important values in your own children on the day-to-day, you are moving toward the time when…hopefully…you will have worked your way out of a full time job (whether you have another job or not) and your kids will be off to their own lives. They will always be there but you won’t get that thoroughly used up feeling at the end of the day. In fact you’ll think back on these days almost as a dream.
Make those days a good dream by remembering, no matter where you live and even amidst the every-day mayhem of your own family culture, that you really are having fun!