When you first have a child, you worry about the basics of feeding, changing diapers, and sleeping. These items seem extremely important at the time but are basic needs and are usually easily met unless you have a child who is colicky or needs special foods. As you go through these motions, you feel like every action you take is due or die in the development of your child.
And then, your little baby grows up. And you realize, 10 years later is when you need that manual, not when they were little!
A couple of months ago, a new coworker moved into the desk across from mine. He comes from Shanghai, China. Bear with me, this story is going somewhere and is related to the start of my article. Like many of his generation, they are the only children their parents have. And because of that, their parents worked very hard to provide a life for their children so they could succeed.
As I learned last week, his parents took care of all of his basic needs while he was grewing up so that he could spend his time studying. He was able to pass his tests, get into college, and get a good job.
If you measure your parenting skills by this result, they have succeeded by leaps and bounds. He is the smartest man I know regarding math calculations. If I ever need to convert any metrics, he can do it in his head. He caught on to his new job very quickly. He has managed to adapt to a new position as well as a new culture in a country thousands of miles away from home.
Just the thought of all of that change terrifies me. His parents have done a wonderful job raising a responsible, caring man.
However, last week we had a conversation about his parents visiting. Currently his mother-in-law travelled to the United States with them. She is staying here for a few months to help take care of his 11 month old. When she returns to China, his parents will come over and stay throughout the winter to make sure his child (their grandchild) is well taken care of and survives the Minnesota winters.
I laughed when he said this. He was dead serious. Their parents do not believe that he and his wife can raise this little one and make sure he eats and grows on their own. And further more, he believes this to be true also. He said growing up he never had to take care of anything in the house. His wife is not a good cook. They have lived on their own, but being responsible for a child is a whole new thing.
After I stopped laughing, I looked at him and said, every parent feels that way, but we all manage to raise our children. I think you can handle it. He said, when they are older and start school, then I can do it.
And this is where I come back to my original thought…the care of little children was hard but the care of older children, feels so much tougher. When they were young they had to listen to you.
They relied on you and you knew all the answers. Once you hit the ages my children are now (10 years and 12 years) your word is not gold. You are constantly on the alert to make sure you discipline them. You have to be careful because literally every move is being watched and for good or bad, you are setting the background that they will take with them into adulthood. It is completely exhausting.
My new Chinese coworker recognized that his way might not be the right way but it was his way and this is what he is use to. With a one child family there are some benefits and some drawbacks. Currently he has the guidance of his parents but in 15 years he will have a child ready for college and two sets of elderly parents to take care of.
I am a very hands–off parent with my kids and they are left alone and are learning to fend for themselves. I know I will not be able to take years off to help them raise their little babies.
They will make mistakes, there is no doubt of that. But they will also learn from those errors and learn more about their child during these trials. And that’s what I want for them. Somedays I wish I could give them all the time and financial benefits that my friend enjoys, but I am also glad my children have each other.
Even when they fight and pick on each other. It’s all part of being a family, at least here in our little village. It may not be the right way, but it works for us.
Family Frolics, by Jennie Lundgren.