. . . conjures cauldrons many and mysterious, deep and powerful, forming us as we give ourselves to the process of mutual growth. I’m marveling today over both the rewards and demands parenting brings and how each new phase for my children means a new phase for me and my own development. Just when I think this role can’t ask anything more, guess what? But it is such a beautiful ride even into these crazy teen years.
What am I learning?
1. Authority has to be sure and flexible – giving room for the valid voice of your child’s perspective. I can’t validate my own voice and then turn around and invalidate my children’s perspectives and objectives unless it’s a severe situation. Authority requires respect and a platform for their perspectives, time for their understandable frustrations and affirmation of their intelligence without losing sight of what needs to be accomplished.
2. Remembering what it was like to be a child is not a guarantee you understand your child. We’re not all wired the same way and do not all experience life on the same levels. Sounds pretty simple enough but I’ve got one particularly sensitive child who, if he thinks I’m assuming to understand before he’s shared his heart, gets pretty darn peeved when he smells my rush to understand. And he’s usually experiencing things very differently from the way I did. It’s actually supremely rewarding to get to hear the articulation of their unique experience of life.
3. Expectation is everything and how you treat others (your children included) will come back to haunt you (or bless you). The two go together. When we get in a slump of conflict I have to pull back and ask myself if I’m stuck in conflict-expectation mode (kinda like ptsd but not quite ;) ). Truly, this one is powerful. The best practice is one of allowing the conflict to teach you things about your child and about yourself while letting all the garbage of that conflict go. No holding out for it to happen again, no going around with a cringe or hurt feelings that your kid didn’t worship you, no “poor me, I’m so tired, give everything, work SO hard, can you believe my child was that disrespectful,” no war-weary energy allowed, no woe-is-me, martyr parent of teens angst or it. will. keep. coming. Reactionary parenting creates reactionary, flip, cynical children. Visionary, expectant of beautiful things is what you want. Expect the best. Expect humanity (this means weaknesses, rebellion and strength) but without melodrama or judgement. And know that if you don’t treat your children like you would treat your best, most cherished friend, you’ll get exactly what you put into it. Do unto others applies to parenting, even when you’re right and they’re wrong (and snotty about it!).
4. No one style of parenting fits from child to child in one family but fairness and consistency are a must. The one-size-fits-all approach is really just a disconnect from knowing someone intimately and taking the time to cherish who they uniquely are as people (people, not “kids”). Dynamic relating for dynamic situations with dynamic cause and effect layers tangling up with some pretty intense and dynamic unconscious agendas. (dynamic as opposed to always the same ole thing static norm)
5. I agree with Dobson. Rules without Relationship = Rebellion. And well it should. How many adult friends go around bossing each other and barking out orders? Not ones who get along very well anyway. Boundaries erected with consequences relevant to the situation combined with concerted effort to respectfully connect to the person your child is and is becoming make for some beautiful relating in the long-term.
6. Condescending Airs fall flat… totally. And it’s inevitable sometimes just given the disparity in inexperience but the better bet is to allow your kids to see your humanity, not just your authority or expertise and remember you’re not the expert of their lives. They are. You’re just temporary guardian and motivator (and they can jolly well pull their weight!).
Having expressed all of that, the mix of stories out there is amazingly diverse, revealing that some of the most patient, pro-active, compassionate, hard-working parents still live out some very sad stories with their children, tragic outcomes almost impossible to fathom. We may be parenting beautifully but we’re not able to control how our children will live their lives, are we? Letting go…oh wow. How? Sometimes life wrenches our hands open whether we like it or not.
This post certainly isn’t the answer to all parenting challenges. It’s what I’ve learned so far. And have to remind myself of on a regular basis. It’s been a cauldron supreme lately in my own life and in the lives of dear friends. So much we hope for, so much we pour out from our life’s best energy. What I keep coming back to is this: parenting is an unfolding of who you are overall, into the lives of your children, children who are people (critical emphasis, they are not objects you’ve brought into the world to dress up and put in the best schools to make you look good), adults in the making so hugely worthy of respect and all the best regard. Sometimes that respect and regard wields the fiercest words of stinging truth and other times the gentlest balm. Knowing when, how and where…it’s a lesson in flexibility and awareness. And we don’t always get it right but one of the best comebacks is ownership of our faults with our children… “Hey, I’m sorry. I really ran all over you and didn’t hear what you were saying. I was rude and disrespectful. When you feel up for it, please try again. I’m here.”
Being what we hope our kids can be…I think that’s one of the biggest keys and acknowledging to them directly that they birth us too.