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Put your feet up on the coffee table, see what I have in the pantry, and enjoy our time together.
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Saturday, January 10, 2009

The Middle Lane of the Parenting Highway

We seem to be in the middle lane of the parenting super highway.

There are those parents in the Right Lane who are just beginning, merging into the chaos and confusion. There are so many worries, so many questions: which diapers, bottles, pediatricians, what should we do now? There are the blissful moments, pulled over on the side of the road while baby naps or is adorably cooing and wrapping those small pudgy fingers around your finger. The rapture at baby's firsts: smile, laugh, steps, words... I can still remember the right lane in a fuzzy, rose colored way. I even get to visit over in the right lane every once in a while, usually when I'm up in the middle of the night for some one on one time with a child. Though the right lane seems peaceful to me now, I wouldn't want to go back. Yes, we really are done! I am content with fond memories to help me remember that I love these crazy kids.

The Middle Lane seems to consist of parents who have multiple growing children. Parents who speed from one place to the next frantically trying to get from point A to point B, C & D in their day. We kiss boo boos and soothe feelings, nag them to make their beds, and try to remember to laugh as the laundry piles ever higher. The worries and questions get bigger: schools, extra-curricular activities, friends, etc. We are no longer questioning the things we did in the beginning. With subsequent children we don't buy brand name, measure formula exactly, wake with every sniffle, or make all baby food from scratch. Not to mention that those multiple children start to get more expensive! (Dear Santa, we would like A Wii, snowboards and lessons, electronic devices etc.) Time is not your own. You have basically given up individuality, hobbies, and selfish desires for the privilege of being somebody's mom or dad! You realize that the little moments of love and joy that happen amid the chaos make it all worth it.

The Left Lane, consisting of parents with teenagers and children leaving home, appears to speed by at an alarming rate. Though I haven't reached this lane yet, I watch my neighbors, siblings, and people in public places. It seems your IQ drops a few points as well as your popularity. And although you have 6 blissful hours (or so it seems to me) during the day to accomplish all those things left unfinished for the last 10 or 15 years when there was still a little person shadowing you, the after school hours seem to be even more jam packed. Increased independence in the form of children getting themselves from point A to point B and hopefully doing their own laundry has it's appeal. However, the worries multiply like rabbits and are big ones: college education, preparing for missions, friends and society with more influence than their old, out of date parents. Boyfriends, girlfriends, and marriages are coming at you head on! The prospect of changing to the left lane makes me shudder with trepidation, nay terror!

As parents speed along in their own lane, they often look at the other parents in neighboring lanes. Those in the Right Lane invariably say, "I will never let my kids do that!" or My kids will never act like that!" We in the Middle Lane, often look at the sweet new parents in the Right Lane with indulgent smiles and chuckle with nostalgic reminiscing about their protective concerns. All the while, those parents in the Left Lane are laughing heartily and somewhat maniacally at our concerns about beds being made, force fed balanced meals, and actually
stopping the car to breastfeed.

As for those parents who have pulled off the superhighway of parenting for good, except for tending the grandkids once in a while, I find myself wondering what they think. I tend to think of these matriarchs in two categories, (usually at the grocery store checkout). There are those who seem to sympathize and want to help and cheer those of us still speeding along. Thank you!
Then there are those who seem to have lost all memory of what being a parent on a daily basis was all about. The disapproval in their stance and glare is almost palpable as they watch me go through the agony of keeping my kids from the candy displays. Grocery stores cleverly set these up at the checkout as the last and final torture in the never ending game of "pleeeease can I have?" "Preeety pleeease..." "pleeeease pleeeease pleeease..." Sorry, I got a little side tracked. I digress. I tend to ignore these disapproving folks and pass them off in my mind as never having had children or suffering from post traumatic amnesia brought on by having their own.

If you see us passing or being passed on the superhighway of parenting, honk and wave. You just might make our day!