When I was a teenager, my mother would often call me Sarah. Not because that was my name, but because I was always a little impatient for what was next. She thought I was a little too much like Sarah in the Bible – trying to help God out a little or at least hurry him along. Maybe it was because I am a card-carrying optimist, but I was always sure bigger and better adventures were right around the corner.
Parenting can bring out the Sarah in the best of us. We (or at least I was this way!) can’t wait until our children are potty-trained. We are so excited about the idea of our children starting school, beginning to date, or learning to drive. We are sure that when our child reaches the next milestone, life will somehow be easier or more fun.
If you knew me, you would know that “sporty” isn’t exactly an accurate description of my athletic abilities. I have taken lessons in a wide variety of sports with less than stellar results. One thing I vaguely remember from tennis and golf lessons though, is that your follow-through is very important.
If I understand correctly, follow-through has to do with physics. To get power behind the ball, you need to keep your speed fast and consistent, never slowing down. If you drop the bat, racquet or club as soon as you make contact with the ball, your ball will not go nearly as far as it could have. Follow- through is the result of continuing to play even after you have made contact with the ball. You may think you are finished when you hit the ball, but unless you follow through, your efforts won’t be rewarded.
Follow-through is also critical in parenting. Frankly, I think it is one of the hardest things about parenting. A baseball doesn’t care what kind of day you have. All it knows is that if you don’t follow-through on your swing at it, it isn’t going to go very far. Now as much as we delight in our wonderfully caring and loving children, there are times when let’s face it, they just need their needs met by us. How our day is going is of little importance to them at the moment.
Have you ever passed your husband’s car in your neighborhood and paused to throw a pack of Depends from one car to the other? Does your teen’s driving practice consist of driving to the assisted living facility and home? Could you pass both the pediatrics and gerontology medical board exams without attending medical school? If you answered “yes” to all three questions, you are probably a “sandwich” mom.
Even though I had my daughter relatively late in life, I figured I would escape being a “sandwich” mom – one who is simultaneously caring for children and elderly parents. My parents had married and had me at a very young age, so I assumed my daughter would be grown and I would be old myself before I had to help care for them. I neglected to factor in that my husband’s parents were almost as old as my grandparents. I will most likely have a few years where I try to balance the needs of my daughter and my in-laws.
We recently updated some of the outlets in our house. Several of them now have a re-set button. If we try to plug something in wrong or something plugged in touches water, the outlet throws the connection to the circuit breaker. When everything is corrected, we merely push the re-set button on the outlet and we can start over again.
Sometimes I wish parenting had a re-set button. You think what you are doing raising your child is working when suddenly you recognize a behavior pattern that makes you realize you made a mistake. Sometimes it is minor, like accidentally correcting an innocent child. Other times it can be a life changing mistake, like not holding your child accountable for his behavior.
Grandpa is ninety years old now. His dementia has reached the point where he acts more like a two year old than the grandpa I know and love. Even though he has changed, I cherish the lessons I received from him. Some were lessons he taught me and others were those I learned from observing him. I realized the choices he made during his life changed the way my life might have been.
You see my grandfather was abandoned at eighteen months old. From what we can piece together, his mother left to go to work for some period of time and left my grandpa and his twin sister with their dad. We think their dad may have been called to work, but whatever the circumstances, the children were left alone in the apartment. Evidently several days went by and they were crying so loudly the neighbors called the authorities. Grandpa and his sister lived briefly with their grandparents and then were left at a local orphanage.