Dr. Christopher’s Parenting 101 piece spurred me to respond with a recount of my own experience in raising my two children. My daughter and son are both grown, leading independent fulfilling lives, and living in different countries at present. One is about to enter into parenthood as well. In this blog, I hope to share my parenting insights in connection with my previous article on motivation.
Before I was even pregnant with my first child, I vowed to myself that I was going to do everything “right”, that I was not going to be like all the “mediocre” parents that I see out there who are only “half hearted” in their vocation. I read many of the books written by experts and even went to visit a child development centre in another country half way across the continent to learn how to raise the “perfect child”.
Do you hear the screeching violins crashing to a halt yet? Well, in the two decades following the birth of my first born, I often found myself in such a steep learning curve that sometimes I even got vertigo! On my journey from being idealistic and fantastic to realistic and optimistic, I went through stages of being fearful, overwhelmed and resentful. I was resentful of the fact that I was given the most important and awesome role of my life and nobody gave me a manual. I was fearful of making mistakes that I might scar my poor children for life. I was overwhelmed by the fact that there are so many experts out there and there is no guidance as to who I should follow first and then second, or what area I should be learning from which expert!!??? It didn’t take me long to realize that the only way to tackle parenting is to be a learner 24/7, learn on my feet, learn in my sleep, learn while I ate, and learn learn learn learn…..
As I look back to our journey, I think what saved me and my two children was that I developed a growth mind set about parenting very early on. I was willing to learn, in the face of mistakes, in the face of criticism (have you noticed that as soon as you become a new parent with a baby in your arms, everybody feels that they can be your teacher?), even in the face of resistance from the two precious angels who were the reason for me to be on this roller coaster ride in the first place!
Yes, there were rough times, especially through adolescence, and when I became a single mom. However, through thick and thin, we were able to learn together, learn how to repair our relationship after disagreements, disappointments, and yes, confrontations. I am thankful that we were able to pick our battles and chose only to confront the very few utmost important issues where differences can shake you to the core. I am also thankful that our relationship became stronger when we repaired our heart connections by making restitutions rather than resorting to punishment and control. I am thankful that the experts had already given us general principles and guidelines, and that they respect parents enough NOT to give us recipes or manuals. These principles helped our family to create a vision of the parent-child relationship. And with that vision in mind, our family of three was able to persevere enough to do the inner work to grow in our hearts and minds. If I have to capture one central theme on my learnings, it is this: That it is less about me going to the moon for my children and more about creating the conditions so that they can reach for the moon and beyond.
The journey has been, and continues to be exhilarating, tumultuous, exciting, heartbreaking, difficult, joyous, labour intensive, and unpredictable. It is an honour and a privilege to have been given the responsibility to raise two young lives. I often hope that the mistakes I made have been small ones and not life shattering, and that we have kept sight of the vision and steered clear of the icebergs in the rough seas along the way. Somehow their hugs, smiles, endearing messages I get in my phone from my two darlings tell me I have my answer.