Parenting: I’m Totally Winging It

Parenting forces you to make about 1,435,988,322 choices every day.

Some are relatively minor. What clothes should the kids wear? Do I give them water or milk to drink, or the highly coveted juice? 

Others seem small but are important in laying future groundwork. Do I work on my son’s handwriting, try to teach him math, or indulge his interest in volcanoes? What punishment fits the crime of body slamming his sister or snatching a toy?

Then there are those crushing you with the pressure of failing and making the wrong choice. What is the best school environment? Do I homeschool or try public school? Do I take my child to the doctor, or recognize there is nothing they will do with these symptoms?

Somewhere in these piles of daily questions lurks one I fear I am not answering correctly:

Do I tell my child the truth, or just what he/she wants to hear?

The Tackler is a very inquisitive almost-five-year-old.

Questions slam into me with the frequency of tsunami waves, leaving me gasping for breath and often drowning in uncertainty.

“Mommy, do we get born again?”

“Where in the United States can we live that doesn’t have volcanoes, earthquakes, or tornadoes (he hasn’t learned about hurricanes yet, or tsunamis)?”

“How old will you be when I’m 102?”

I find myself in a battle to tell the truth versus sugar-coating the answers.

The truth wins out most of the time.

Now my son is very worried about Oklahoma. And the tiny possibility we have of a tornado on Wednesday. And how no place in the United States is guaranteed free of natural disasters (we’re working on understanding the meaning of “probability”).

The roller coaster of life brings exhilarating highs and tragic lows. I find myself unable to paint the world white without the black shadows and shades of gray.

So when my son says, “Mommy, you can never go to Hawaii!” -based on its volcanic activity – I use it to explain how its volcanoes are different from the explosive ones.

The possibility of a tornado brings up safety measures and why we hide in the bathroom.

My choices may not be right.

Parenting: It's like taking a test, but finding out your grade thirty years later.

They may not be wrong either.

I honestly don’t know and probably won’t for another thirty years.

Until the day my kids have their own kids, turn to me and go, “How did you do it?”

Then I can smile, cuddle my grandchildren close and say, “With love. But I was totally winging it.”

* * *

About Kelly K @ Dances with Chaos

Kelly K has learned the five steps to surviving of motherhood: 1) Don't get mad. Grab your camera. 2) Take a photograph. 3) Blog about it. 4) Laugh. 5) Repeat. She shares these tales at Dances with Chaos in order to preserve what tiny amount of sanity remains. You can also find her on her sister blog, Writing with Chaos ( sharing memoir and engaging in her true love: fiction writing. It's cheaper than therapy.
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22 Responses to Parenting: I’m Totally Winging It

  1. I think that your choices are totally right – the results may not end up how we intended but as long as we just remember to love them like crazy we can’t be too far off. (LOVE your last line, by the way.)
    Natural disasters scare the bejesus out of me so I’m trying to walk that fine line of being honest but not TOO honest, ya know? I handle it the way you do though – I talk about how we’ll know if a tornado is coming and about how our family has a plan to be safe. We have to go over that plan in detail every couple of days with the kids. I think if I keep repeating to them how safe our plan is they’ll start to believe it. (I hope I will too.) In the meantime, I’m going to keep winging it along with you!

  2. ocdtalk says:

    Great post…….I think that’s all we parents can do. Parent with love, and hope for the best. Sounds like you’re doing a great job so far!

  3. Dianne says:

    Kelly, even with a BA in Child Development and a MA in Education, with my own kids I am totally winging it every day and hoping that I am doing it right. I think a lot of parents don’t rely on their own instincts enough. We read too many books, listen to way too many experts and try to follow the advice of others which often conflicts with each other. While it is great that there is so much information out there and it is all for the benefit of our children, we also need to remember that we made it this far and we are rational beings that are capable of doing this. I try to listen to my inner voice and know that if I raise my kids with love and make decisions for them with love then I can’t go wrong. It sounds like you are doing the same, way to go!

  4. CG says:

    Tonight, he asked me a question about people and dinosaurs, which prompted the conversation about how people and dinosaurs did not live at the same time, where were people before dinosaurs, etc.

    Expect questions about “eeee-volution…”

  5. Jessica says:

    I loved this post. My three year old is constantly asking questions and I struggle with how much is to much for him to know. I want to protect his innocence, but I also never want to lie to him. Great post, beautifully written.

    Stopping by from PYHO!

  6. Katrina says:

    I feel like I’m mostly winging it, too. Even though I have so many, I seriously have no idea what I’m doing some of the time. People ask me, “How DO you do it?!!” and I shrug and say, “I have no idea. I just do it.” I only have some of the answers, not all. I make many mistakes, but I learn from them. I will ask other moms with less children than me for advice, because it doesn’t matter how many you have. Not really. We all know different things and can share our knowledge and experiences with each other, and we all can learn from each other. A mom of nine can learn a lot from a mom of just one or two. This I know for a fact! We are all just “winging it” in one way or another 🙂
    They All Call Me Mom

  7. John says:

    “Winging it” is, really, the only way to parent . . . if you think you know what you’re doing, well, then the kids throw a curve ball to make sure that you were wrong.

    And, I think “the truth” has to always win out, even if The Tackler wants a specific answer.

  8. It’s so hard to know the right way to answer. We can only do what we think is best in the moment.

  9. It bothers me that our motherhood manuals were stolen when we gave birth. They have to exist, right? I think your answers are what’s best at the time. They can always be adapted or more fully explained later. Like my 11 yr old telling me that sex was when you wanted to have a baby. And me saying yes, then dropping it rather than ask if she knows HOW. I’m getting there. You will too. (Also, my girls are obsessed with looking at earthquake activity online).

  10. Debbie J says:

    I have teens and have “winged it ” alot through the years. Honestly usually is my first choice. Sometimes, I answer, ” I just don’t know”. Great post!

  11. debseeman says:

    We all wing it. Sounds like your doing a great job. Thanks for sharing and letting the rest of us mommies know we are not alone!

  12. Ange says:

    I found you through PYHO and I think that with children honesty is the best policy and it will teach them to always be honest with you as well.

  13. Oh, your heart is so in this post. I love it! The decision making of parenting is enough to make you crumble to a million pieces. But your last line. “With love.” That’s the only way. We’re all winging it!

  14. christine says:

    Wow, I love this. It is so hard to know. And you’re right, we probably won’t for another 30 plus years. But I love “with love”. We’re doing our best and usually that means winging it, A Lot. Thanks for sharing this!

  15. Ah, yes. I wing it a lot, too. They have so many questions! How can we be prepared for them all. And it sounds like your little guy is a very deep thinker.

  16. We really have no choice BUT to wing it, right?

    Since every child, every parent, every SITUATION is different from the next: there is no step-by-step instruction or playbook or list of rules that works for all kids all the time.

    I remember when my kids were your kids’ ages and feeling betrayed by the Parenting books and magazines. Literally betrayed. Because I’d read them and do what they said and then it didn’t work and then I’d say

    OKAY NOW WHAT?!?!?

    That’s when I had to learn on my own what would work for us. For me. For them.

    I’ve been winging it for almost fifteen years now. (Gulp.)
    But I’ve only been to Hawaii once in that time, so….

    (Hang in there. :-))

  17. Pingback: This is Vital | Vital Mommy

  18. Annie says:

    WInging it here everyday, my friend. I find that I am learning more from my children than I ever would have dreamed.
    Lately I’ve been dealing with the stressful thought of my oldest boy going to junior high next year. Worrying that maybe I’m forgetting to prepare him for some part of what all that entails…

  19. This is sweet and true. We’re always weighing our words, trying to answer without scaring and without lying. It’s tough. My youngest is the same age as your son, so I’m right there with you.
    Came from the WOE linky.

  20. SAM says:

    Yep. I agree with you 100%. We follow the example our parents set out for us, try not to make their same mistakes and just wing it.

    Great post!

  21. Winging it? Omigosh! I have all the answers! Hello. Everyone should just call me.



    You are a great mom.

    My parents tried to “protect me” from the truth, and it didn’t do me any favors. If anything, it made me mad at them because I never got to develop skills that others did early on.

    Never fear the truth.

    Call a penis a penis.

    And FYI, we don’t have many natural disasters in Rochester, NY. We just call it snow. And then we go skiing. 😉

    Great post! Hope to talk to you tomorrow! Fingers crossed!

  22. Pingback: What We’re Reading This Week: February 1st — It Builds Character

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