Parenting Unlike a Duck

Whoever said everything changes after you have kids was right! Not only does this saying apply to your priorities, waistline, bank account, and number of brain cells, it also holds true for definitions of some words and phrases.

Take for example the word vacation. B.K. (before kids), going on vacation likely meant moonlit walks on the beach or hours hiking up and down beautiful mountains or visiting historic/artsy museums for days on end. But vacationing A.K. (after kids) takes on a whole new meaningVacationing with kids involves throwing in a pack ‘n play, dozens of diapers and wipes, a boatload of fruit snacks, adhering to nap and meal schedules, and all the other stuff you normally do when you’re at home. So essentially the vacation you planned for months and looked forward to is really life in a different place (but hopefully a scenic place). 😉

Also, think about the phrase sleeping in. When I was in college, sleeping in meant first staying up way past my bedtime the night before and waking up close to lunchtime the day after. Sleeping in A.K. however is a little similar in some ways. You still get to stay up late or be woken up several times during the night by a little person who is teething or feverish or just wants to party, but you’re lucky if you get to sleep till 7AM the next day. These days when I open my eyes in the morning and see any digit after 6, I’m a happy camper. Oh, how life has changed. 🙂

Recently I’ve been pondering another phrase that has been radically redefined since I had kids: running errands. I don’t know about you, but when I’m on my own, I can attack 4-5 different stores within the span of 1 hour; the longer my shopping list is, the faster I run. But I’ve learned that running errands A.K. never involves running, unless it’s running to the nearest bathroom after a certain child has downed a bottle of water. Shopping with my munchkins means speed walking and looking back every so often to make sure the kids are still following me.

I was doing this exact activity the other day – “running” errands with E and C at Costco – when a realization hit me.

Image courtesy of EA/

Image courtesy of EA/

I always thought it was cute to see a mama duck with her ducklings trailing behind her, but now I wonder if that’s how parenting is supposed to work. Of course I’m not a bird (even though I gave birth to a girl who loves them), so I can’t speak for bird parents, but I’m thinking in the context of human parents. Let me explain …

As an adult, I thought patience was one of my stronger suits … until I had children. Then I realized I am anything but patient. I’m forever wanting, hoping, praying that my kids will grow up. That they will learn how to do things on their own. That they won’t have to rely on me to wipe their behinds or feed them or cut their nails. That they will walk faster, have the physical dexterity to keep cups from spilling, and communicate with words instead of kicks.

I realize now that I spend a lot of my days as a parent walking ahead of my kids, like a mama duck, when I should actually be walking beside them.

In the effort of focusing my energy on checking off a to-do list, I’ve forgotten the more important priorities in life, like the people I’m leading. They’re the ones with little hands that need holding, little feet that need to take double the steps to keep up with mine, little eyes that are curious about everything they see, little minds that need compassion and care to face this great, big world.

If I am to lead and mold and love my kids, I need to slow down. Slow down enough to look them in the eyes when they talk. To listen patiently to their many questions and answer them as best as I can. To understand the things that are important to them (even if it’s the name of their favorite Pokemon) and to make those things important to me.

Because being a kid is hard. But we adults have been there and we’re the best ones to help them navigate their way. 🙂

P.S. I had many opportunities to walk beside kids this past week at an academic camp I was helping with. It was a wonderful experience, one that left me with little time to sit in front of a computer (hence the lateness of this post!), but one I will treasure forever.

For some reason the Spice Girls’ song, “Stop” came to mind as I wrote this post. I think the chorus applies well. 😉

Which kids in your life have you had the joy of walking beside?

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