Thursday, February 4, 2010

Big Kids, Big Problems; Little Kids, Little Problems

As a parent, every problem we have with our children seems monumental, especially the first time we experience it. Enduring potty training, suffering through a difficult bedtime routine, seeking out a responsible babysitter, the list goes on and on. Despite how huge our problems seem, when our kids are little, their issues should not be too catastrophic. In my experience, the saying “big kids, big problems; little kids, little problems” has generally held true.

As I sat in the chair getting my hair cut recently, my cell phone vibrated repeatedly. While I believe it’s rude to check the phone in that circumstance, I was concerned that it went off so many times. So, I checked and discovered calls from two of my young-adult children. It turned out that one was very ill, and the other had a relationship setback that had her very upset.

When our kids are little and they’re sick, we take them to the doctor, be sure they get the appropriate medicine they need, and let them cuddle in our laps. At 22 years old and living in another part of the country, I felt helpless to deal with my son’s illness. I urged him to go to the health clinic, get his friends to buy him Gatorade and chicken soup, and take ibuprofen. But encouraging him to do these things and actually doing it for him are very different things. Scrabble Crossword Game

My daughter needed a shoulder to cry on, but she, too was several states away. I could offer advice, but I couldn’t stroke her hair, make a silly face, or take her out for ice cream. It’s so hard to watch your children, at any age, suffering.

When our kids are young, we hope that we can help them navigate disappointments, illnesses, issues at school, and social problems. The goal is to teach them enough so that they can deal with these things when we aren’t there to guide them. Once kids hit middle school they are faced with peer pressure, drugs, smoking, alcohol, sex, and dangerous behaviors we can barely envision. Hopefully, we’ve guided them well as they’ve grown up, and they can make smart choices. With luck, they will trust us enough to clue us in on what’s going on in their hormone-crazy young lives.

So, the next time you want to freak out because your child has colored on your wall, or flushed a diaper down the toilet, keep your perspective, and your sense of humor. These are little problems. With luck, you won’t have to face too many big ones as the kids get older.

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