It is so easy to feel like there is an expert somewhere out there that has the solution to all of my parenting woes. The list is long and ever changing. But when I stop to actually assess the possibility of this, I am stricken with how impossible finding this is! There is no strategy I could use to ‘fix’ the problems that come along with raising children. At the root of this mental catch is that children do not need to be fixed at all!
Much to my dismay, advice can never get me to my destination. It is rather like a road map that I can follow to lead me down different paths on my way, oftentimes they are paths I had not considered previously. I am the one who has to do the travelling. I am the one who has to get lost and dirty along the way. And isn’t this half the fun of this journey called life? And in reality, there is never a final destination. Just many, many, many stops along the way. The stops on my parenting journey look something like this: get breakfast, get shoes and coats on to go outside, eat snack, make a deposit in the potty rather than your pants, eat lunch, nap time routines, dinner, navigating sibling disputes, manners, bedtime routines, meeting or missing social norms, and so on. Some of the stops are lovely and warm, and others messy. Others require a lot of intellect and others yet require perseverance not required of me in my other roles in life. There are endless possibilities for redirection and changing course. None of the more ‘right’ than another, despite my conviction that there must be some sort of ‘perfect’ way to approach parenthood so that everyone comes out relatively unscathed.
Humans have become so good at categorizing things into compartments. Defining things in terms of black and white. It has taken me some time to recognize my parenting journey as yet another area of my life to apply a greyscale. While it might be nice to package my ‘parenting philosophy’ into some sort of pretend finality, my approach never stops evolving because my children never do. Despite our culture asserting the subtext that people can be mechanized and ‘programmed’ to perform this way or that, treating my children in this fashion will never achieve my desired outcome, which is to grow a real human. I want to grow a person…an individual. I want my children to able to rely on those around them, trusting in the people not the ‘experts’ or their ‘techniques.’ Nature doesn’t follow a manual.
My disillusions of parenting often include visions of raising a perfect, well behaved, socially adjusted, brilliant child. But if I am to more aptly consider the situation, my discomfort often stems from wanting these qualities for myself. Parenting is unlike anything else in life. I stare into the tiny beautiful faces that I created, and see all the facets of myself (both beautiful and ugly) and the potential for achieving my desired self – welcome ego. All too often I push my own agenda on my children – most of the time unconsciously! The idea of this breaks my heart. I am working to untangle my own unrealistic expectations bestowed upon me by culture at large. It is hard work, but worth it for even a chance at changing the course of my children’s lives.
I want our lives to be lived with love, around love, because of love. When it comes to parenting dilemmas, it is when I can clear away all of my preconceptions and listen to my heart that I know what I need to do. My children will grow in spite of me. Much like a plant will find the sun regardless of obstacles. But rather than being an obstacle, I would prefer to be a container. I want to hold the space for their growth. I don’t need some ‘expert advice’ to proceed. I just need enough self-compassion to keep re-visioning the journey and trust what my heart is telling me to do.