By Amiee Cantrell-Webb, Contributor
I am a public education teacher in rural eastern Kentucky. I have taught high school aged children English and journalism all day, everyday for the last 19 years. I have had roughly 3,000 students walk through my door, and out of those thousands, I can literally count on one hand the number of students I have had whom were genuinely problematic for me to get along with.
I’m laid back. I consider myself funny and sarcastic. I am easy to get along with. These very traits and the lack of discipline issues over the past 19 years led me to one very wrong scientific conclusion: Raising one little child would be easier than teaching teenagers.
I look back and laugh at how truly naïve and silly I was: I genuinely assumed that dealing with up to 150 teenagers per day would be way harder than raising one tiny human being.
Oh. My. God. I was an idiot.
If I'm being honest, from the moment he came into this world at 34 weeks, Abe- my son- has been a force to be reckoned with. Every single thing I said to myself about parenting before his birth has been thrown out the door.
I don’t like to admit it, but up until age 37 (I gave birth to my one and only child at the ripe ol age of 38), I fear I was one of those judgmental types of people that I despise. I’d see a kid throwing a tantrum in Wal-Mart, and I’d lie to myself and say, “My kid would never do that.” My friends who co-slept with their children bewildered me, and I would ask them awful questions like, “How do you ever sleep with a child in the middle? Aren’t you miserable?”
I sometimes would be annoyed if kids cried or misbehaved while I was dining out. I’d see parents with kids who were unruly, and I’d think, “Now there are some terrible parents.” I even remember telling my husband once that if we ever had a kid, he or she WOULD behave because I wouldn’t tolerate the nonsense I see in public.
Well, if you have never had kids, are pregnant with one, or are just starting your parenting journey, please take my advice: Never say never.
That kid throwing a tantrum in Wal-Mart? Yes, he’s mine, and he often gets ignored or walked away from in the aisle he’s lying in because I don’t like to fight a 3-year-old in public. (Don’t worry! He always gets up and follows me, and nobody likes to kidnap screaming toddlers anyway.)
That kid sleeping in the middle of his parents? He is also mine, and I will say this – when you are tired and trying to work and function as a human, you don’t care where they sleep as long as they are indoors and safe!
My take on the bad parents of wild kids who sometimes act out in public? I am the mother to that child, and I am doing my absolute best. Heck, he is three, and I still dread dining out with him because I never know what this kid might do! Just a few weeks ago he thought it would be fun to grab a bite of leftover food off a dirty table at Bob Evans since his food hadn’t arrived!
The moral to my story is this: It's easy to chat with friends or sit behind a keyboard and dish out parenting advice. It's easy to talk about other people’s kids, or be indignant at what other parents do, while we parents of toddlers are out there in the trenches fighting a daily war of defiance, sass, obstinacy, and tantrums. This parenting gig is backbreaking and mentally taxing work; in fact, on snow days and summer vacation I KNOW my days are going to be exponentially harder than they would have been if I had gone and dealt with my 6 classes of teenagers that day.
So, while I understand how easy it is to say, “My kid will never____” (fill in the blank with whatever it is you believe), as a nineteen year educator and three year parent, I implore you to toss that phrase out.
I look at students in high school who have done drugs, gotten into fights, performed poorly in class, had too much to drink at a party, etc., and I remind myself – Never say never.
At the end of the day there is one hard truth to parenting: You may do your absolute best, spending years working to instill every value you have in your child, but children will be children. They are unpredictable, and will inevitably let us down and make mistakes. In the end, how effectively we deal with their mistakes is what determines whether we were a good parent.
Amiee Cantrell-Webb is one of a growing number of women who waited to begin a family until after the age of 35 (she was 38 when she had her son Abe). She is a former SEC golfer who now teaches high school English and journalism in eastern Kentucky. Amiee and her husband Chad are proud parents to a feisty red-headed son who never allows for a dull moment in their house.