It's Our Turn: Parenting is the toughest of all jobs
Wikipedia defines parenting as "the process of promoting and supporting the physical, emotional, social and intellectual development of a child from infancy to adulthood."
Wish I had that definition when I decided to become a parent 16 years and nine months ago. At that time I relied on Webster's Dictionary, which simply defined parenting as "the raising of a child." That sounded a little more doable.
My first-born turned 16 this week. It was a big milestone. First, because I managed to keep her safe that long, considering I had no clue what I was doing. Second, because she actually seems to be turning out all right (so far).
Now that I have 16 years of parenting experience, I can say that Wikipedia's definition is definitely more accurate. There's a lot more to parenting and raising a child than providing them with shelter, food and clothing and sending them off to school.
The physical and intellectual parts are the easy ones. You provide for their needs, keep them safe, make sure they are getting a quality education, and so on. There are plenty of books to walk you through this. If your child is hungry, feed her. If her diaper is wet, change her. Don't leave her unsupervised until she is old enough (which, of course, is a gray area).Take her to the necessary medical appointments. Read to her and teach her numbers, the ABC's and colors. When she's old enough, enroll her in preschool.
It's the emotional and social parts of parenting that no one prepares you for. Where are all the helpful "how-to" guides on these areas of parenting? Of course I know they are out there, but they definitely aren't as commonplace and as simple as the others.
Everyone is quick to tell you what to do for scrapes, bruises or ear infections, but they don't have a clear answer on what to do when your child comes home from 1st grade devastated because her "best friend" made a new friend and doesn't talk to her anymore.
There aren't any step-by-step directions explaining how to ease the pain after the death of a pet, let alone the death of a grandma.
Where are the guides that tell you what to say after watching your child put everything she has into accomplishing a goal, only to fall short of reaching it?
Why didn't anyone ever tell you that when your child's heart is broken, yours will hurt much worse than hers, and for every tear she cries you'll cry 10?
Of course these are all life lessons and experiencing them is a necessary part of life. A parent can't shelter their child from all the pain and ugliness in the world, and it wouldn't be healthy to try. But oh, how we'd like to!
While these are the tough parts of parenting, the rewards are always far greater than the struggles.
The rewards come when you watch them work out a problem on their own because you helped them learn the tools necessary to do that.
Or when you see them choosing to be honest and do the right thing in a situation where their peers are choosing a different option.
Even something as simple as them giving you a hug in front of their friends and saying, "I love you, Mom," with no apparent embarrassment can be rewarding.
Or when they say, "You were right, Mom!" That one's always a biggie, because we have no idea if we're right when we're trying to guide them over, under, around and through the obstacles of life.
All we can do is follow the advice we give to them every day: Just do your best. It'll all work out!
"It's Our Turn" is a weekly column that rotates among members of the Echo Press editorial staff.
Tara Bitzan Tara Bitzan is a lifelong Douglas County resident. She obtained a degree in Mass Communications/Print Journalism and English with a minor in Scandinavian Studies from Moorhead State University. She joined the Echo Press in 1991 and currently serves as the Life/Variety/Special Projects editor. She lives in rural Douglas County with her husband, Dennis, and their daughters, Courtney and Cayla. Follow Life Editor Tara Bitzan on Twitter at @TBitzan.