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Disclaimer: I am not a parenting expert. This is simply my parenting experience from the past 16 years

I have three children two boys who are 16 and 11 and a daughter who is 6. Parenting wasn’t natural for me. I mean sure I’ve played house. I had my parents, aunts, uncles and wholesome TV moms to look up to. But on September 28, 1998, when the doctor handed me this 6 lb little boy swaddled in nursery blankets, I was a parent.  I was given this real life child to care for.  When I was younger, I had a baby doll named Jeremy.  This child I was holding was no Jeremy. I had to feed him. Bathe him. Pick him up. Dress him. Provide for him.  And to top it all off, I was only 18. Essentially I was a kid about to raise a kid.

Lucky for me, my first born was easy. Even now at 16, I really don’t have a lot of problems with him.  He was a really easy going kid.  So when I had my second son at 23, I felt a little more prepared but this little boy was determined to make me feel inept as a parent. He was a little dare devil. He went to the ER so much I was afraid the ER staff would call DFCS on me.  When he was 11 he finally broke something. Even though it was just a toe, I said years ago he’d be the first of my kids to break something. At 28 I had my last and final child and this one was a doozey. My daughter is a different breed of a child. But by this time, since I’m older and I have a few parenting years under my belt, I felt much more prepared.

I’d love to paint myself as the patron saint of mothers. I’d love to deem myself mother of the century. But truth be told, I’m still learning how to be a parent.  My kids don’t always go to bed on time. I let them eat too much candy. I let my 11 year old watch PG-13 movies.  I let my 16 year old play Grand Theft Auto. I bought my oldest two cell phones. I laugh when they fall. I sometimes eat in my car so I don’t have to share my food with them. I let my oldest eat a huge bowl of cereal. Sometimes two. I fuss a little too much.

One day last week I was thinking about my oldest son. He’s in the 10th grade and has aspirations to go off to college. I had a thought that scared me to death: the 6lb little boy I had 16 years ago is growing up fast. In two years I will have a grown man. And it made me think…am I preparing him to be the greatest man he can be? It was then that I realized the huge role I have as a parent. I am responsible for preparing him for life beyond living with Mama. And I have two more coming up behind him.

For me, parenting isn’t about buying the newest cell phone or the new Jordans. It’s not about being their besties. It’s not about giving them everything they ask for. I have to teach my kids about morals. The importance of education. The value of family. How to survive without me. My kids need to know how to iron, wash clothes, wash dishes, clean a bathroom. How to handle themselves in public. How to be presentable when they leave the house.  I show up at school, for awards days and if you get out of line. My kids have to know how to have healthy relationships. How to be upstanding citizens. My boys have to know how to treat their girlfriends and my daughter has to know when a man doesn’t value her. I have to let them know it’s ok to fail but it’s unacceptable not to try. I have to give them support, love and encouragement. I have to show them there is a world outside of where we are now.

I’m not sure how to accomplish all this. This is part of the unknown of parenting. Am I doing enough? Am I doing it right? When I consider what I’m doing as a parent, this verse popped in m head

Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old, he will not depart from it “Proverbs 22: 6

I pray daily I am training them up to be great, happy, safe, smart, respectful, funny, successful kids. Years ago I gave up the thinking that I am a single parent.  Single means one which means alone. I understand why single parent is used to describe someone who is not married or in a relationship with their child’s father, but I am far from a single parent. I have so much support from family, friends, teachers, principals, coaches, and doctors.  I truly, truly believe in the old adage that it takes a village to raise a child or three.

Having a child at a young age isn’t cute.  Having a child because you think it will keep a man isn’t smart .  Getting 100 likes on your child’s picture should never be a parenting goal. A child isn’t a check. Sure kids are cute but kids don’t stay kids forever.  Kids become adults and a lot of what they learn comes from the home. So what are you showing them? Again, I’m not an expert. I’m just a mother trying to make sure her children grow up to be adults that can function in the world because I’ve prepared them as much as I could. What’s some of the best advice you received from your parents?