We’re half way through January. How are your New Year’s resolutions holding up?
I’m still working on that whole “sleep at least 7 hours a night” thing, and my ambitious workout plans have been sidelined by two separate colds (yes, already). It seems like it’s pretty easy to feel like a failure around this time of year.
So how about a pat on the back instead?
Many of you have parenting goals somewhere on that list you made two weeks ago. I’ll say first that improvement is a noble goal. But it’s also easier to succeed if you aren’t so busy beating yourself up. So here are five truths that will give you a boost; five reasons you’re probably doing a better job than you think you are when it comes to parenting.
1 -The fact that it’s hard doesn’t mean you’re doing it wrong.
Parenting is hard work. Not because you’re doing it wrong, but because you’re doing it. If you’re setting boundaries, good for you. But it’s going to be hard. If you’re up with sick kids, you’re doing the right thing. But it’s going to be hard. If you’re embracing kids and their full range of emotions, you’re giving them a gift. But it’s going to be hard. Parenting is heart-rending and heart-melting. It’s both difficult and delightful. It’s filled with the mundane and the magical. And it will leave you exhausted and exultant. It’s the nature of the job. As I’ve said before, “Don’t let anyone tell you you’re doing it wrong just because it’s hard.” (I loved these recent thoughts on this topic from Jamie at Steady Mom as well.)
2 – Mild conflict is how we grow.
As adults we crave peace and order. Sometimes we even see it as a reflection of our own competency. But in reality, kids who live in perfectly peaceful and overly orchestrated environments miss out on valuable opportunities to struggle, problem-solve, and adapt. When we adults anticipate and prevent every mild disruption, we get really good at smoothing out the wrinkles life throws at us. But our kids don’t. We don’t want them overwhelmed, but we also can’t shield them from their social homework, which goes by the name of conflict. So don’t be critical of yourself because your child faces struggles. Accept it as part of the learning process, and do what you can to coach them through.
3 -There’s strength in the repair.
This is one of the most liberating phrases I’ve heard in a seminar. As I reflected on that presentation in this post, I realized:
Our children can’t be shielded from everything. They’ll skin their knees. They’ll have broken hearts. They’ll even bear the brunt of our own poor judgement from time to time. But those rough patches aren’t the end of the story. When we scoop them up, kiss their knees, wipe their tears, or say, “I’m sorry” those connections and corrections actually make them stronger than would a perfect life without the bumps and bruises.
It gave me a new perspective. “Success” as a parent isn’t about keeping our children from facing challenges or experiencing pain (as tempting as it is to try). It’s about being there to comfort, love, support, and — when necessary — apologize. It’s not something we track on a tally sheet of our mistakes, it’s an ongoing process of connecting and reconnecting.
4 – Kids are resilient.
With all the emphasis on the powerful impact of early learning experiences and environments, it can be easy to forget that children (and humans in general) are actually very resilient. The brain that we work so hard to perfectly enrich, influence, and sculpt is – by definition – plastic. This means that it can repair, it can adapt, and it can change.
We will, with all our good intentions, still make mistakes and omissions. And our kids will likely be just fine. Kids don’t need everything to be perfect. Having a bad day does not constitute a bad childhood.
As we come to know better we will do better, but we can’t start that chapter until we allow ourselves to stop reading from the last one.
5- You love your kids.
While “all you need is love” may be a slight overstatement, it is true that “love covers a multitude of sins”. Connection counts for so much more than we may realize. You can “do” everything right, but if love is missing, it still won’t come together. You can also “do” a lot of things wrong, but if love is clearly communicated and felt, things tend to work out.
If you can set aside the day’s demands — all the spills, the mistakes, the tantrums (yours and theirs) — and focus each day on connecting. On saying “Sorry” when it needs to be said. On saying “I love you” in all the ways you can say it. The strength you build in relationships will carry you through the challenges that the world and your own human weakness will put in your way.