Every moment that your baby/toddler/child/teenager is in your care, your primary job as the parental unit is to keep that person ALIVE and WELL. This may seem simplified, but it is the core of parenting. It is also why I have 80% more wrinkles since having children.
On top of keeping that little person safe, you also must teach them pretty much everything about life. EVERYTHING. A parent is responsible for instilling everything from simple manners (please and thank you) to a moral code of living (keep your ass in school and out of jail). Parents teach empathy, kindness, compassion, love, loyalty, honesty, oral hygiene and sometimes even math (ugh). Parents should lead by example (No Brock, you can't take that beer to go) and should be generous with their love (and, in my opinion, ponies and humor).
There are a wide variety of books written by "Parental Experts" on how not to screw up your kid. I'm sure that there is tons of useful information in those things, but I can't be certain as I have yet to read one. My parental style is something I like to call "I'm just going with my gut...." I also use the method of "Distraction", "Bribery" and the ever popular "Elf on the Shelf" (ours just popped in from the North Pole for a surprise inspection).
As you probably know, all of this is only part of the reason that raising children is mentally exhausting. I haven't even touched upon the brain melting parental obligation of decision making (what doctor, what school, what activity, what food, what friends, LeapPad or Leapster Explorer?....blah blah blah...). Not to mention the physical demands of feeding them, cleaning them, feeding them, cleaning them, feeding them, cleaning them, clothing them, watching them every second of the day so that they don't fall into a well or run into traffic, and hauling them to and fro. I have witnessed the direct effects of a headstrong two-year old who isn't "into" having their diaper changed. The adult in the situation staggers out of the
This mental and physical
In conclusion, parents are thrilled to hear many things come out of their babe's mouth. We are pleased when a well timed "Please and thank you" is applied. We are proud when our tot says "May I please be excused?" and then carries their plate to the kitchen. We could almost burst when we see them say "I love you" to a sibling or friend and then follow it up with a non-strangly hug. We are amazed when our hours of chanting "You're the Best Mom EVER!" in the ear as they eat, play and sleep pays off with an affectionate and enthusiastic, "Wow! This food is great! You're the best mom EVER!"
While all of the above are great and make you feel like a parental success, don't be fooled. What we most want to hear from our well-behaved, perfectly healthy and well rounded children is a well-earned, perfectly timed (at bedtime, of course) "I'm TIRED".
Winner, winner. Cereal for dinner.
God Bless the Children (with well manicured parks, fresh air, sunshine and enough exercise that they practically put themselves to bed).
Now, if you'll excuse me; I'm exhausted. Insomnia should be outlawed.
Sleep well tonight, and may the force be with you.