Many people will tell you that there’s no “right way” to be a parent. Many people are wrong.
Oh snap, right?
This is not a judgment piece. This has nothing to do with the dreaded mom shaming. This is not coming from an officious person who thinks she is a perfect parent who’s got it all figured out.
This is about stripping away all the bullshit that we create in our heads about what a good parent looks or acts like, versus what a bad parent looks or acts like, and get to the core. Because the more parents I talk to and connect with, the more I realize we all just want to return to the basics, without the pressure of perfection or even the sardonic comments of “how badly we’re going to mess them up.”
To be very clear, our only job as parents is to teach our kids to live as part of a group. You know, like every other animal species on the planet. Our job is to guide these tiny humans along their trajectory of life, and show them the ropes of what it means to be a good person, and how to carve out their own special place in the world.
Our job is to be their guide to life, show them around, and give them the necessary skills to connect, participate, enjoy, feel safe and secure, and contribute.
Our job is to facilitate the raising of good people. People whose worth is not measured by the numbers in a bank account, the perceived value of their employment status, the amount of “things” they accrue over a lifetime, but rather by how they show up in this world. Our job is to raise these tiny humans into being larger humans while remaining their open, loving, curious, adventurous, playful, exploring, affectionate, sparkle in the eye and a giggle in their belly selves.
It’s a very natural process inherent to the growth and success of our own species across time and space, and yet somewhere, somehow, we did that human thing where we think we know better than what has come before us, and managed to mess it up over and over again.
Screenshot this 11 point parenting manifesto / put it on your fridge / tattoo it on your forearm when you’re feeling afraid to welcome your own children into the world, or for when you’re feeling like you’re getting it wrong. Parenting is a marathon, not a sprint, and we all need to take a big breath and chill the hell out about how we’re doing, and how we’re doing it. Simplicity, patience, and the ability to be simultaneously firm but kind go a looooong way.
My job as a parent is to:
- Encourage relentlessly open communication. I will shut up and listen to what they have to say, when they have to say it. I understand that listening to “which Bubble Guppy is the awesomest and why” communicates to them that their opinion matters, and that they can tell me anything. Anytime.
- Show my kids that they belong, and consistently foster a home that makes them feel welcome, safe, and secure. I understand that what that looks like for me is different than what it might look like for any other family, and that what matters is to create the sense of family that feels most comfortable for every single member of our home.
- Be more, and do less. I will make time simply to show up and BE with my kids, and let go of the need to keep them entertained. I understand that there is never enough time, and that in triaging my own life and circumstances, I commit to making time for my kids at every age.
- Let them fail, let them be, leave them alone to make mistakes, then hold them accountable. I understand that it is through adversity that we grow, and develop an understanding that actions have consequences. I will support them in a healthy, loving way by offering useful – not useless – help, as they handle the actions of their consequences at any age.
- Guide them through this life using what I know to be true as a baseline, and be open to my kids’ own learning and experiences along the way. I understand that sometimes our home will feel like a democracy, and sometimes I will just need to BE the parent.
- Allow space to play and explore, as this is truly how our kids learn, not through endless after-school programs. I understand that kids need both structure and free-range play, and I support their most natural development by allowing them not only to entertain themselves, but to feel boredom, and the inevitable spark of creativity that follows that feeling.
- Have high standards for how we speak and act with one another, because I know that kindness matters at every age, and that developing empathy is crucial for fostering peace at home, on the playground, and in their adult lives. I know that sarcasm has a cutting edge that stings, and that I am responsible for leading and loving by example.
- Respect them as the unique individual they are, and I appreciate that who they are reflects them, not of me. I get that the greatest gift I can give to my kids, and ultimately the world, is to foster their development of a strong sense of who they are, and encourage them to engage in what makes them feel like themselves.
- Abolish the concept of perfection, as I understand that this life is all about learning. I will make mistakes – without hiding them from my kids – and learn every time, just like I will let my kids make mistakes and learn from those too. I will do my best with what I have at every opportunity, and be gentle with myself and with my kids during the times when we were not able to be our best selves. I will show them what it means to apologize sincerely, and to know what it feels like to be truly seen and heard.
- Love them. Unconditionally. Even in the moments when I don’t particularly like them, I will love them. I will strive constantly to be their anchor in any storm, and be their most ardent fan, even when this means I need to quietly remove myself from the situation. I will show them the true meaning of safe and healthy attachment, knowing that every other relationship they will experience in this life stems in one way or another from the quality of attachment they develop with me.
- Put on my own air mask first, and commit to nurturing the relationship I have with myself, my partner, and my friends. I understand that me leading a full and satisfying life allows me to show up as my absolute best self, which my kids deserve me to be.
Parenting has its ups and downs, moments of joy and happiness, and moments of anger and frustration. Our job is to above all be there throughout. Go hug your babies. Or go get busy make them. We need you to show up and be a strong leader for your kids, so that they can continue to lead our world – with a hell of a lot of courage and love – moving forward.
IMAGE SOURCE: COURTESY OF LEISSE WILCOX