Stay calm and parent on

Terror seized me as I buckled myself next to my first newborn son who was all-snug in his car seat. Panic gripped me as we drove away from the birthing center because no one told me what to do once we arrived home. I was well versed in pregnancy body care, how to breathe during labor and all that, but that's where the instruction stopped. No one told me how to do life with a baby human.

Feeling abandoned to my own devices, I gathered much information from other parents, classes and books. Eventually, I developed my own parenting style based on tough love that probably was tougher on me than my kids. When my toddlers fell down, I refrained from reacting and let them get up by themselves without a lot of drama. When my school-age children forgot their sack lunches or homework, I didn't allow myself to rush to their rescue, but rather allowed them to experience natural consequences. When my young college freshmen called because they were short on cash, I didn't bail them out; instead I suggested they stick to a budget and/or get another part-time job.

Sometimes I felt like a really mean mom, but I reasoned that my job was to raise up my kids to understand that life isn't going to hand them everything they want or need exactly when they want or need something. I wanted them to learn to be responsible for their own belongings and accountable to meet deadlines. Often times it was (and still is) painful to watch them struggle, but that's what kids must do to learn how to do life well on their own. If they're trained to be resourceful, thoughtful individuals equipped with life skills, they will be able to take care of themselves.

So, looking back, I now understand why no one gave me instructions for how to raise my baby. It's because they couldn't. Parenting is a unique journey. No single parenting method works the same for every mom or dad or child. It's a process honed by a variety of trials, experiments, joy, heartache, happiness and yes, moments of panic. No one ever gets it exactly right, but somehow, most of us do okay.