Parenting education can feel so rigid. You do this, you don’t do this, but if you do this particular This, then you have to do this, and then there’s this exception. It’s horribly complicated.
There are rules. There are methods. Some good, some not so good. We seek out, and tune into what we think we need. We try to find the most current information out there, for our most precious family members. Which one is the best? We talk, vent, share. We find our way, however we do. And a little bit of each site, book, article, or conversation resonates. These aha moments, scattered all over the parenting rabbit hole, give us something. Maybe just a moment of focus, a plan. But too often, our children don’t follow the plan, and we again scurry.
The number of times a plan is selected, rapidly deemed ineffective, ultimately abandoned for a new plan, which is deemed ineffective, and abandoned for a new plan, is immeasurable. Vast. Could fill the Grand Canyon. We have too many plans to choose from. It’s the toothpaste aisle phenomena, but far more complex, with much higher stakes – which makes us more anxious, and more disconnected from our intuition, as well as our child/ren. We can be led astray.
Now there’s an aha moment – we can be disconnected from our intuition, and even from our child, in our search to do the job well. I have heard so many parents say, “I don’t seem to have that parenting intuition thing.” BUT – I have yet to meet a parent who is thoughtfully engaged in the life of their child/ren, sober, and developmentally capable, who has proven me wrong, that we all have at least a modicum of intuition about how to help our children. I know the smallest flame can be fanned. And for the rest of those issues I mentioned, there is help to find it, wherever it may be in the weeds. It is our job to look. To choose to look.
So, why do we get lost in our big old brains? My perspective: We jump right over the starting point. We are so eager to teach parents, and parents are so eager to be good parents, that we jump right into the ocean before taking introductory swimming lessons. I don’t know about you, but unless you are a really good swimmer, I believe learning in the ocean would feel bad.
I challenge us all; before we adopt any parenting method, rules, or intellectualization of our parenting, we must learn to listen to our hearts. We must pause and ask ourselves, “Am I ready for more information, or am I reacting from a tender, exasperated, or fearful place?” And if the answer is that our feelings are hurt, we are just plain tired and frustrated, or the most insidious of all – we just don’t trust ourselves, then we need to address these items first.
We need to turn our attention inward, wrap around our soft places, and simply check in. Maybe we just need a cup of water, a walk around the block, or a snack that isn’t the leftover lunch on our child’s plate. Maybe a short nap, a laugh, or a talk with a friend about something other than parenting. Maybe even to cry, yell, or fling something really far and really hard (when no one else is looking, of course.) A simple hug? Maybe.
We need to learn to trust ourselves, know we are capable, and understand that our children are mighty, in small bodies, with no knowledge of how to navigate this crazy place. From a place of deep respect, we must believe in ourselves and our children, and recognize the tantrums and fuss (ours and theirs!) are all just a part of growing up.
Today, I wrote my own centering words I’m happy to share. But first, I think it’s important to say I’m finding my parenting compass the hard way. Some days it is a wash, and I just shake my head and try to go to bed early. I’m still learning every day:
I am an enforcer, but first, I am an enchanter. I am a craftsman, and a quick thinker. I remain rooted, grave and unshaken. I use 2, 3, or 5 words, and smile. I raise my eyebrows and not my voice. But sometimes, my voice too. I teach. I invite. I help. Sometimes, you don’t want my help and I have to help anyway. I’m sorry for these times. And, I’m not. Sometimes I choose the wrong tool, because I am more than Mom or Dad. I am a dancer, a worker, a collector. I am a partner, a dreamer, a friend. I am funny, I am fussy, I am both soft and hard. My story is long, and this chapter is new. Now, and here, I take care of me, and you. And together, we’ll find what’s right, what’s wrong, and where we need to be. Thank you for your patience with me, as I find my way too.