Parenting is not for everyone but all parents are doing it. Doing it does not always mean getting it right. Getting it right does not mean life is easy and life being easy does not always mean we are getting it right.
Striving to reach that elusive parenting grail is what can drive us to the brink of insanity and back again. Will there ever be a day when we can wake up and know beyond all doubt that we have parenting nailed? I doubt it – at least, not if we care. Caring is what makes parenting so darn hard. Wanting to do the best for our little ones, to set them up for a truly fulfilling and happy life is what keeps the majority of parents steadfast in their quest to get it right. Truly recognising the impact that our words, our actions and even the intonation in our voices can have on the people we care about above all else in the world is setting ourselves up for more hurt and heartache then we ever could have imagined.
We could live in the moment without regard for our children’s sense of confidence, self-esteem or trust in their most adored leaders. This way, shaming them for missing the toilet bowl with a simple exasperated sigh, punishing them for expressing emotions we are not comfortable to handle or hurting them for hurting others would seem ok or at least, justifiable. Our children would quickly learn to curb these behaviours in response to associating them with such a negative experience and we could live in this blissful ignorance of getting it right as our toddlers mind their p’s and q’s and daren’t test limits for fear of our reactions.
There is a powerful force pulling many parents towards this type of parenting. It is the power of generations of parenting before us, the power of a strong statistic representing the decline in behaviour of youth, it is our own inherent fear of raising a delinquent and if this wasn’t powerful enough, the societal expectation that we pull our pre school aged children into order as soon as possible and by any means possible is usually enough to convince most parents. But if that was it; if the point in time in which our children stop testing, stop questioning and respond immediately to a request whilst using their manners consistently was the point we could pat ourselves on the back for a job well done, would we have then reached that elusive grail? Life sure would be easier, but I think not.
So to the helpful stranger who implied my lack of care in my decision to parent respectfully; who suggested my children would benefit from a firm hand and letting them know who’s boss, I thank you for your honesty but I politely decline. I like to be firm but fair, not with a firm hand though. I will let my children know not who is boss but who is their strong, capable leader by remaining unflustered by difficult behaviour and guiding them back onto the right path.
To care means to put our heart and soul into every part of this precious gift which has been bestowed upon us. To love when our child screams at us in anger, to empathise when our children push their siblings for no apparent reason, to validate their feelings when our toddlers cry out in frustration over not being given another cookie and to support when they meltdown embarrassingly in a public place because they simply can’t cope with an expectation. That is being a caring parent.
It is hard. It is exhausting. It saps our energy. It requires us to summon every ounce of strength we have and then give just a little more than that to get through most days. And we will do it again tomorrow because our little ones depend on us.
We make mistakes E-V-E-R-Y-D-A-Y. We regroup. We apologise. We get back to the drawing board and we try again. We model for our children the people we want them to be not the people most of us would steer clear of should they treat us that way.
Our words, our actions, our love and our respect will send powerful and long lasting messages to our children that they will learn to embody just as their parents did. It will not be easy but it will be worth it.