Where’s the parenting manual?

Sometimes between the morning rush to school and the chaotic bedtime routine, it occurs to me that part of my job as a parent is to prepare my children to become functioning adults, which ultimately freaks me out.

Last night one of my kids, without any prompting, made his own lunch, which was great. But then this morning, I didn’t see the container in the fridge and wondered what happened to it. Sure enough, he planned way ahead and the container was already in his lunchbox and in his backpack where it had been since last night, without an ice pack.

So although there was accomplishment in his independent act, it wasn’t quite executed in a way that resulted in a lunch that was safe to eat.

Last night, my another son’s jackets (two because yesterday he brought home both the jacket he wore yesterday and the one that he forgot at school last week) were right by his backpack. When I saw that, I assumed that he’d select one as he grabbed his backpack. But when we go to school – a 20-minute drive – I found out that he hadn’t taken either one so he’d be in just his T-shirt for the rest of the day. Fortunately it’s Phoenix and is expected to get into the 70s today, but mornings can be chilly.

When a child is 2 or 3 and headed to their day at preschool, things like lunches and jackets fall onto the responsibility of the parent, but when the kids are 7, 9 and 11, sometimes those things fall off the mental list to make room for all the big things going on in our life.

Parenting troubleshooting

So when these everyday  activities go south, it makes you wonder what you’re doing wrong. Unfortunately, there’s no parenting manual with a troubleshooting section to refer to. Although Google and bookstore shelves have countless options to choose from for parenting advice, there’s nothing that specifically fits each child, because each child is so different. When I was pregnant, there was the “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” book and then a similar one for the toddler years. But now what? In five years, my oldest son will be old enough to drive. How do I prepare him for that responsibility? And what about when dating comes into the picture? How do I prepare them for being good, caring, thoughtful teens and grown-ups?

It seems like everyday there’s another story in the news about another man who treated women horribly. As a mother of three boys, that weighs heavily on my mind because I don’t want my sons to ever act like that. When it comes to development, helping your kids turn into decent human beings is much more daunting than potty training or teaching them how to tie their shoes (and those were big challenges in our house). I hope I don’t screw it up.


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