The best way to parent is your own way
JAN 30, 2015
By NATHALIE HARDY | Yamhill Valley News-Register
Breaking news for parents: The gig is more fun if you do it intentionally.
Please don’t confuse that with becoming a parent on purpose, rather than serendipitously. Sometimes blessings come as a surprise, welcome or otherwise.
But once you find yourself responsible for another human being, there you are. And suddenly, it seems there is so much to know.
A Google search on any parenting-related subject will quickly suggest there are so many wrong ways to go. There are experts on everything.
Then there are the experts who disagree with those experts. Then there are the commentators who point you to the One Right Way in all caps.
So I thought I’d take a moment to tell you there’s no such thing. Contrary to what some might say, or shout, there is no One Right Way.
I’d put that in bold, all caps, if my editor would let me. But there are style rules for newspapers and all caps is not an option, you’re welcome!
I consider myself a bit of an expert on talking about feelings — yours, mine and the stranger’s on the sidewalk. Seriously.
I know, it’s not everyone’s favorite thing. But, alas, I’m a fan. And whether we like talking about them or not, we all have them. They ripple into all of our interactions, factor into all of our decision making and affect all of our connections with friends, relatives and colleagues — even strangers on the street.
I mention this because the way we feel about ourselves as parents, and how we evaluate ourselves in that role, colors the way we interact with our children, which plays a significant role in shaping how they view the world, and themselves in relation to it.
That seems like kind of a big deal. Isn’t there enough to consume our thoughts between the diapers and the diplomas without this kind of existential pondering?
Well, sure. But at the end of the day, how we feel about our contribution to family and community is the measure by which we seem to view their successes.
Of the following, I am certain: Success as a parent doesn’t mean having done all things right all the time. It doesn’t mean raising children who face no problems, challenges or failures. Success in this role, I think, is less about the outcome of our offspring and more about our willingness to love them through, and despite, their difficulties.
The metrics of being a good parent actually come down to some pretty simple things, which is not to say “easy.” It is hard to be loving in the face of opposition and defiance. It is hard to be loving when our kids mortify us. It is hard to be loving when we feel disappointed and angry.
Being a good parent is not the absence of this entire range of feelings. It is continuing to love our children, and to show up for them, without becoming enablers. It is being relentless in helping them grow into their best selves, no matter how far away that looks today.
You know how I know all of that? Because I went straight to the source. I asked kids of all ages.
I even had friends ask their kids, ages 10 months to 30 years, “What makes someone a good mom? What is a good dad, exactly? What makes you feel loved?”
Their answers overwhelmingly came back like this: Love me anyway. Be there for me. Listen. Notice.
And you know what else? They notice what we do for them. Even when you don’t think that could possibly be true.
My 7-year-old recently told me he wanted to keep forever our copies of “Chronicles of Narnia” and Laura Ingalls Wilder’s “By the Shores of Silver Lake.” He wants to read them to his kids, like his dad and I do for him and his brother.
Then, he said he likes it when I come up for “talking time” and snuggling after I’m done “doing all the things no one notices.” Except, I’m going to go ahead and count that as someone noticing.
Try this at home:
If you’re playing along at home, here’s the first column in this series: A manifesto of one’s own.
Here’s my mind map – essentially a brain dump of all the things that came to mind as I considered which moments I feel most connected to the kind of mom I want to be. Since I started it, I keep adding things as they come up. Turns out it’s a lot of ordinary stuff.
**I made a little reminder poster for you guys. You should be able to download it and print it out on an 8.5 x 11 paper. In theory. Let me know if you try it? **