I’ve been ADULT-ing for almost 33 years now (do the math and don’t judge). I’ve been PARENT-ing for almost 28 years. Gimme a second to sit dow, got a little light-headed there…back to the story.
In parenting, there are basically three phases: Pre-Parenting (no kids), Full-On-Parenting (they’re all around me!), and Post-Parenting (just an FYI, this phase doesn’t really exist if you’ve ever qualified for Full-On-Parenting).
My Pre-Parenting was very short-lived. When I got married my wife had two young sons. So right from the get-go I was thrown into Full-On-Parenting mode. And with that, this section is only a couple of sentences; about the amount of time I had to prepare for Phase-Two!
When my kids were younger, it was about changing diapers, getting them dressed, buckling them into carseats, putting them into shopping carts, and not accidentally leaving them at the store if they throw a short tantrum in the middle of the isle (#justkidding, #notkidding). As they get older, it begins to morph from the physical, hands-on aspects of parenting to a mental game. At first, the mental games is much akin to playing checkers, where you are the checker master and your son/daughter is simply trying to learn the game (enjoy this fleeting advantage).
At some point, the game progresses from checkers to a basic game of chess. Again, while they’re learning what the pieces do and the moves they can finagle (this is actually a real word), you are able to mostly stay a move or two ahead…and then they become teenagers. I’m not sure that their game improves, but they seem to find ways to distract you at your own game and throw you off (Pro Tip: never take your eyes off the board during a game). At some point, the chess game turns into some version of a multitiered Star Trek-ish game of chess, with them declaring they won and you aren’t even sure which pieces are yours. This is normal. Sometimes your smartest move is to concede to letting your wife make the next move for you.
POST-PARENTING (again, really doesn’t exist but we’ll go with it)
Now that my children are grown and parenting their own households, it’s fun to watch their kids negotiating these same games.
The challenge for me now is to be a sounding board for my grown kids and not simply proclaim, “It serves you right!” Okay, that was a tad harsh. Did I mention I have some competition issues (just ask the wife)?
I’ve learned the importance of just listening, and most importantly, I try and only give advice when asked. Many times my kids are just looking for some verification that their games of checkers/chess are normal. They will tell me something that one of their kids had done and then watch for my reaction. If they see a wry grin and a nod from me, they know that they are on track and that life is just weird and that their child is operating within normal parameters (did I mention I like Start Trek).
Remember when I said that I try to not give advice? Yeah, there is one thing that I will never apologize for when it comes to giving my son’s and son-in-law advice. That one thing is that no matter what, when playing the game of life known as checkers/chess, the most important piece on the board is the QUEEN. When the queen is safe, the rest of the pieces will fall into place. There is a great life lesson in there somewhere.
BONUS MATERIAL: When in doubt, help with the dishes and bring the queen chocolate.