My son is nearing 11 years old, and is beginning to run into more and more complex problems in his life. The fifth grade soap opera is in full bloom in his classroom, he's trying to figure out how to appropriately choose friends and girlfriends, and he's occasionally coming home horrified at one thing or another that he saw someone else do in school (I'm still at a point where I'm rejoicing over the fact that he's properly horrified). He's in a period of growth in his life where he's trying to figure out if it's more fun to be a teenager or a little kid, vacillating back and forth between 'tude and childlike sweetness (complete with baby talk, which is almost more irritating than the attitude!).
My daughter is 9 and she's mature beyond her years. Trying to draw her out into conversation isn't always easy, but it's always worth it. She has a tender heart, is generally a thoughtful person, is artistic and creative, and is a high achiever in school. She's also very sloppy in her personal space (I recently told her that she can't possibly expect me to tuck her in at night if my feet can't find her bedroom floor).
They are both so drastically different from one another that I'm certain my parenting style can't possibly suit them both -- and perhaps doesn't suit either one of them. This has drawn out new (and old) worries in me that my therapy-based judgment will be very harsh indeed someday. What happens if I'm just not sensitive enough to their needs? What happens if they completely misunderstand something that I say or do and take that all the way with them to adulthood? What happens if I actually say or do something wrong and they take THAT with them to adulthood?
Occasionally my lack of perfection as a parent is so glaringly obvious that I want to crawl into a hole and give up. No, really. I mean it. Any hole will do, spiders and all - and I really really really hate spiders. And usually my lack of perfection as a parent is prefaced by some other lack of perfection in my everyday life... which makes it just insult piled on injury... not only am I a screw up in my own life, but now it's going to affect my kids, too! Why can't I just be great and wonderful? It's what I really want, after all... my kids to look back on their childhood and say, "Oh, gosh. Wasn't Mom just wonderful? Wouldn't it be great if all kids could have parents as great as ours?? Too bad Mom and Dad can't be EVERYBODY'S Mom and Dad!!"
And, of course, the reality is that I'm going to do the very best I can and still make a ton of mistakes so that my kids, like me, will look back at their childhood and say, "I'm never going to do that to my kids -- because that really hurt me." And I will, like my mother before me, say, "Yup. I messed that one up. Sorry 'bout that." And hopefully we will all move on with life (without expensive therapy), loving each other in spite of our mistakes.
So for right now, with my kids still being 9 and 10, I will enjoy the hugs and kisses and the "I'm so glad you're my mommy" speeches while they last. I will try not to delude myself that they will continue indefinitely into the future. I will try to constantly maintain solid lines of communication with my kids, regardless of the problems they are facing at the moment. I will try to remember my own human imperfections when trying to help them with theirs. And I will do my darnedest to maintain a healthy marriage in order to provide them with the security so important in all growing up experiences.
Beyond that, I'm just going to try to keep getting to know them better for who they are. 'Cuz they're pretty great people.