I’ve been working at this parenting gig for almost seven and a half years now. In that time I’ve dealt with my share of parenting issues. From having a premature baby in the NICU to navigating the return to work to cleaning poop off the kitchen counter to choosing a school to taking that first overnight trip away, I’ve logged a lot of miles. Along the way I’ve learned a lot, picking up tips and tricks that mostly worked, some of the time, until they didn’t. I’ve become a lay expert in infant development, child psychology and making peanut butter sandwiches. You could argue that I have far more parenting insight to share today than I did on that day I pushed my first child into the world. And yet, the longer that I do this, the less insightful I feel.
My kids seem to be okay – either because of my parenting or in spite of it
Four Things I Know for Sure About Parenting
While I may not have a lot of insight to offer, there are four things I know for sure about parenting:
- Every parent is different.
- Every child is different.
- Change is the only constant.
- Kids are amazingly resilient.
As a parent, I have fallen short at every turn. Every parent does. And yet, like pretty much every other parent, I persist. I try to do my best for my children, myself and my family as a whole. My ideas are constantly challenged, as my kids go through new ages and phases. The things that worked so well yesterday fall by the wayside, and once again I find myself out of my depth, unsure of how to proceed. I rarely get it right on the first attempt. Or the second. Or the third. But I keep at it, even as I know that there’s no finishing this race. My kids will grow up, but they’ll always be my kids.
Matching T-shirts: a recipe for therapy in their adult years
In spite of my constant shortcomings, the truth is that my kids are fine. In fact, they’re better than fine. They’re amazing little everyday miracles wrapped up in super-cute packages. They are sometimes funny, sometimes sad, and frequently profound. And the more time that I spend parenting them, and the more that they’re able to speak for themselves, the more I see that they are very much themselves. I haven’t molded them, even though I’ve sometimes tried. I can’t pinpoint anything I did or didn’t do that made them who they are. Was it the breastfeeding? The babywearing? The routine we followed? The times I threw out the routine and followed their leads? I think it was probably all of it, and none of it, and a whole lot of their own innate personalities shining through.
More and more, I’ve come to believe that if you’ve covered the bases, making sure that your kids are safe and warm and fed and clothed, the rest just doesn’t matter all that much. Sure, it can make a difference to you as the parent. For instance, when I finally emerged from the other side of my breastfeeding struggles with Hannah and forged a successful nursing relationship, I felt as if a huge weight had been lifted from me. I was so happy that we’d made it through, and that I’d managed to breastfeed my daughter after all. There’s no telling what difference breastfeeding or not breastfeeding would have made to my daughter, but it made a difference to me, so I consider it an important choice.
They’re loud, but they’re happy
My current parenting style leans heavily on that concept – the concept of meeting everyone’s needs as best I can, including my own. If you can make two different choices and get the same result, then why not make the choice that’s easiest for everyone, and maximizes familial happiness? I can think of no good reason not to. And if it turns out being the wrong choice, well, I’ve made plenty of wrong choices already. What’s one more to add to the list?
Socrates said, “The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.” If so, with each passing day I become more truly wise in the ways of parenting, as I recognize how very little I really know. It’s freeing, actually. When I don’t expect myself to have all the answers, there’s a lot less pressure to do the right thing. Instead, I can focus on my family, and what works for us. As long as everyone’s needs are met and we’re happy, nothing else really matters.
I’d love to hear your thoughts. Has spending more time parenting made you feel more or less certain about your parenting choices? And do you think that your parenting choices had a bigger impact on you or your kids? Please share!