Discomfort. That word alone makes me itchy sometimes. No one likes to feel the sting of being uncomfortable. You know who hates being uncomfortable even more than you? Those kids you are raising. This shouldn’t come as a surprise. They keep you posted every time they don’t like a chore, an outing or when having to break from their idle ways and help out. Words happen. That one phrase makes me dig deep to find inner peace is said, “it’s not fair.” Gosh those words bug me. They are spoken at the first sign of their discomfort. But you know what…that phrase is growing on me. I feel like maybe, just maybe, I’m doing this mothering thing right.
I had an incredible childhood. My parents loved and supported me at every turn. Schoolwork, sporting events, unsolicited coaching and life advice and support every step of the way. I got to go on beautiful vacations and had a backyard that all of my friends envied. Home-cooked meals, nice clothes on our backs and I always got the most expensive pair of shoes for track. It wasn’t perfect. My parents were divorced. I had step-parents; I was a stepchild. I had chores and things were expected of me and demanded. My older brother apparently wanted to be an only child and me coming along after 19 months of being the golden one crushed his dreams…and he let me know it. Our house was small. One bathroom for 6 people growing up. If we were coming home from a road-trip we would start calling who got the bathroom first from 30 miles out. Rooms were shared and sometimes we had to handle our own problems. We played together, fought together and experienced a lot of life together.
My siblings and I were raised not to have a victim mentality. Yes, things happened to us that didn’t mirror everyone around us. But we were taught to make the best of it. My parents, both sets, made it their goal in life to teach us this by exposure. Some of their “lessons” weren’t intentional...but others were. My dad would take my brother and I backpacking, as in everything we needed for survival we had to carry on our shoulders. We went on several of these treks over the years, new scenery, fresh fish to catch, tents to pitch and water to boil. Each time he would prep us for worst case scenario. If something happened to him and we needed help we could follow the trail and pack out hopefully find a trail guide with a mule on our way. We were probably 10 and 12 the first time we heard this speech. My step-dad was similar in this aspect. Our family would visit a notoriously dangerous river in our home town and swim there a lot. Currents, shrubs, rocks, traffic were all lessons. Once we were jumping off a rock into the water after his example and before I jumped my step-dad said “there is a whirlpool right here…if you get in it stay still and don’t struggle, it will spit you out.” Guess what, that whirlpool found me. It was scary and uncomfortable but I made myself stay vertical and it released me, just as he said. My mom would teach us amazing things like how to make a meal out of nothing and how to escape critical social situations.
We have a role as parents to give kids a safe environment to test themselves. Not rescuing them when problems are small so they know what to do when big stuff comes along is a vital lesson. My husband and I are so proud that our kids don’t need anything. They have a roof over their head, shoes on their feet and two bathrooms to chose from. We are learning to help guide them in the ways of discomfort. We are learning not to fight their battles for them, but to come alongside of them and coach them through it. Discomfort as a child has made me a more grateful and strong person now, and I hope I am wise enough to pass this lesson on to our kids.