Parenting Surprises

I don’t keep a journal as such. I suppose I would consider this column a sort of journal, although I’ve heard that journals are supposed to be private. Meh. So much for privacy.

I like to write with my audience in mind. I picture them as the people dug into this foxhole of parenthood with me, maybe having a laugh at my expense (at least I hope so).

But if I did have a journal, and if I asked you to keep a journal, too, so we could talk about it in some kind of hypothetical parent support group, I would pose this question: what has been a surprise to you?

I have a few things that have surprised me. One surprise for me has been that I thought my kids would be perfectly behaved. I know. I’m a kindergarten teacher, so this shouldn’t have been a surprise.

Why did I think I had all the answers on child discipline when my students ask me every day what they are supposed to do when I’ve just finished giving specific instructions?

Or add real water to the play teapot when I have explained in my most assertive voice that water will leak from the play teapot? Or use about two and a half bottles of glue on an art project that I have explicitly stated needed exactly one glue dot?

And yet, the difficulty of discipline was a surprise.

My other surprise was that teenagers are pretty great. I think that surprise came to me fairly honestly, because I, as a teenager, was not that great. I was actually kind of worrisome. So it’s interesting to me that there’s nothing I’d rather do than spend some time with my teenage kids, who generally seem glad to spend some time with me, too.

My daughter, for example, reminds me of hanging out with myself, but a more fun and hip version. For example, she’s funny, quick-witted and loves singing Elvis songs. She enjoys chocolate and Dairy Queen. It’s like looking in the mirror, but cooler. What I love about being with my daughter is that we have these weird experiences together that I think we only have because we see them through the same lens.

Just as one example, we go to the processions for Our Lady of Guadalupe every year, and we are convinced we experience some kind of Christmas magic every time. If you don’t know about this beautiful Mexican cultural practice, allow me to sum it up.

Throughout the first twelve days of December, people dress in traditional clothing and walk to the church, singing Christmas carols, while holding candles and other offerings to La Virgen. On top of that, there are lots of food stands, which makes it a family favorite with us.

For the last two years, my daughter and I have gone together, on our own, and are sure that unexplainable things happen to us each time. Last year, we were certain we saw the same colorfully traditional dance group in two different, logistically impossible places. Now, we understand that there is probably an explanation for it, but we don’t really want to hear it. We like the idea of Christmas magic much better.

This year, we wandered the streets, taking in a variety of dance and mariachi processions as they made their way to the cathedral. We turned the corner on our way past the municipal offices and casually walked across the street to loop our way back to our car.

We walked onto the Malecon and stopped to see what a crowd was looking at. It was the large city Christmas tree, not yet lit up. In that EXACT moment, we heard them shout “5, 4, 3, 2, 1…”, the Christmas tree lights went on for the very first time, and fireworks went off over our heads. Amazing timing? Or Christmas magic just for us? Just let us have this one, ok?

These stories illustrate why I enjoy parenting my teens so much. Having a child who loves sharing some magic with me has been one of the greatest surprises of being a mom. And it’s also one of my greatest joys.


  • Leza Warkentin

    I have been living and teaching in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, since the turn of the century. I am a Canadian with a musician-Mexican husband and two Mexican-Canadian patas saladas who are growing up way too fast.

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