There are so many books (and schools of thought) on being a parent. Do this, don’t do that, I know you thought that was good (but TURNS OUT IT’S NOT, SO STOP RIGHT NOW.) No timeouts, no saying “no”, and discipline more (but not too much). You must be calm at all times, so you should snort a tablespoon of lavender and stuff your bra with coconut oil and kale. Channel your inner zen, so that even when your kid is screaming like you are a stranger trying to abduct them (but actually they’re just mad you won’t buy a Elsa flashlight), you can smile and say, “wow, I can see you are really upset about this”. Instead of, you know, throwing them in a football hold while they pinch your arms with their razor nails and beeline it for the car, where you wrestle them into their carseat until sweat drains down your saggy boob crevice (formally known as cleavage). You can then listen with empathy as they scream at you (not slam the door while they rage and cry and avoid eye contact with Merle and Eddie who are holding hands and walking into the store like a Norman Rockwell painting) .
I think all the books, articles, and talks sometimes forgot to consider actual children and actual (human) parents. As much as they’ve tried to map this road, it’s pretty much un-mappable. (It’s a mother*fudging*jungleouthere). Read the books if you want, just don’t let them make you feel like an idiot, and don’t let your God-given instinct be the last on your list of reputable opinions to that you listen to.
We don’t need a PhD to be a parent and it’s okay to trust ourselves.
When I boil down everything I want to be as a parent I think it’s this:
- Love well (however messily and imperfectly).
- Apologize and be humble when I screw up.
- Teach them to be contributors to society (and not jerks).
- Make sure they eat food and wear socks.
- Be authentic so they know they can be authentic too.
I’ve yelled at my kids (sometimes I had to apologize, and sometimes *I think* it was called for), I’ve given out a bazillion timeouts and chores…and I don’t know…I think they’re going to be FINE. I’m tired of the idea that we need to unlearn every instinct we have to be a good parent. Yeah, sometimes a monster version of myself jumps out of my throat and I’m horrified with how I handle a situation…and then I apologize. No amount of books are going to undo the fact that I make mistakes and have to apologize.
The fact is, no matter how “perfectly” we follow a particular set of rules, we live in a broken world with broken people. We can only do our very best to set them up for the future, but we can’t stop them from struggling or even (ugh) having to recover from certain aspects of our parenting. When my precious four grow up and move out (and my heart packs up and cleans out their room, and I die a thousand deaths) my prayer is that they never, ever doubted how much and how deeply I loved (love) them and how much I absolutely believe in them. My prayer is that I’ve been so real that they are never afraid to share their greatest victories and their biggest mistakes with me.
I gotta attempt to let myself off the hook from being the parent I believed I would be as a nineteen year old judgey arsehole, and I also have to make peace with the fact that there’s no book I can follow that will make parenting un-messy and uncomplicated.
Parenting doesn’t require a PhD. We were literally born with instincts to mother. I’m not saying we always “feel” those instincts, (because I absolutely haven’t and I really felt that one of those OB nurses should have come home with me). I’m not saying books and articles aren’t helpful, I’m just saying let’s also LEAN IN, let’s lean into the parents we are and trust ourselves. Let’s dig deep into the endless well of love that we have for our kids. We’re a lot better at this than we give ourselves credit for.
There’s a lot of things that require a PhD (becoming a brain surgeon for example), but this isn’t one of them. Even though parenting is so hard, it’s also the most natural thing in the world.
There’s a bazillion different kinds of moms and dads and there’s certainly not one way to be a good one.