I know the future I want but cannot even begin to imagine the past I will have
Parenting is not about being a good parent or a bad parent. It is about the moments we hold onto and the regrets we must live with.
The decisions we make each and every day shape who our young children are. We make decisions about what school they go to, what extracurricular activities they will belong to, what friends they are exposed to and what places they travel. It is all up to us; it is an extension of our own lives that shape our children.
I think we have all had a parent or grandparent say something like: “I have been a parent for 30 years, I know more/better”. But I do not believe that it is length of time we have been a parent, but rather it is the decisions we make. From the moment your baby enters this world you are shifted; you do not need 30 years or even 30 minutes to know that. It is immediate. You are changed, your life is changed, the world around you is changed.
I will one day know what it is like to look back over 30 years, over the short days and the “oh so long nights”. Over every lost temper, tear shed, kiss given and snuggle stolen. I will reflect on what it all meant, how it was done and what could have been different. I know the future I want but cannot even begin to imagine the past I will have. If all we have is our past, our memories and our choices made, then what is more important than living life with no regrets? Looking back, we will not remember the moments we didn’t regret but will dwell on those we did. I do not want to look back and regret the type of parent I was. I know I will regret decisions, single moments, choices I made and ideas I thought were so valid at the time. But the big things, the life moving, emotionally dependent decisions that we make should be made with purpose and mindfulness so that when we look back and reflect, we are able to be sure in our core that we made those decisions the only way we knew how. Regret is a funny thing. It is not the simple feeling of “I wish that had not happened”. To me that is remorse, the realization that what is, simply “is” and what we want is not always possible. Regret on the other hand, is the neglectful decision-making we all do that when reflected on, allows us to see how if only we had been more present in that moment or more honest with ourselves it could have been different. It could have been more. More honest, more real, more centered on who we are and what we are and the type of person and parent we want to be.
I do not believe that it takes 30 years to learn what you need to know about who your child will become as an adult. I believe that in the moment our children are born we know absolutely everything we need to know, and if we are able to allow ourselves the ability to tap into that and to follow our intuition and instinct, that we will not look back with regret. We will look back with reflection, remorse for lost time and sadness for moments that slipped away but we will not regret. Remember that parenting is an action for which there are reactions; nothing you do is lost in time. Rather the opposite; the things we do as parents become the inner workings of our children. Be kind, be honest, be deliberate and work harder than you have ever worked before. You are not raising your child; you are raising a human being and to anyone that says parenting knowledge takes time, I ask: What do you regret?
My boundaries are nobody's boundaries but mine, you have your own boundaries, let me have mine (thank you).
Often times as parents we are faced with raising our children differently than those around us, be it friends or other family members. The tension that can grow because of these differences is tangible and can often lead to awkward dynamics. Recently I have had multiple conversations with friends and colleagues about this very topic. What I am hearing is that there seem to be no boundaries around the idea of allowing people the space and respect to raise their children as they choose to. Some of these differences are around choices of religion, lifestyle, philosophy of parenting, diet, sleep patterns, media exposure and the list goes on.
Children need boundaries, they crave the ability to understand what is and is not okay in the world around them. This statement is where I believe many of the disagreements and misunderstandings stem from. Boundaries are not concrete, they do not exist in one space in time and fit every family, child or parent on the planet. Boundaries are as pliable as they need to be for every individual family designing them. One family may place boundaries around food, another around sleep and yet another around scheduling or media exposure. Each of these boundaries deserves respect and attention because everyone's boundaries are equally important. I believe that aside from the breastfeeding, sleepless nights, brain fog and pure exhaustion, the hardest thing about parenting is placing boundaries around you and your family in order to provide a sense of comfort and security.
It can feel uncomfortable to assert a difference of opinion or philosophical view around those we love and respect, especially our parents or grandparents. Friendships often struggle when they transition from a friendship in single-hood to that of a friendship in parent-hood. I believe this struggle is mostly due to an inability to state differences, be okay with those differences and respect others for their own ways of doing things. While the difficulty is something to be acknowledged and is something real I want to empower you to do it regardless of the discomfort. Not in an act of defiance or lack or respect but rather from a place of genuine need. If you believe in the boundaries you have placed within your family dynamics, especially for your children then it is okay to assert those needs.
Remember…..we are all human, we are all doing the best we can and we all deserve the space we need.
You are a parent; you created a life. Now go out there and let people know the values you choose to raise your children by and feel no shame is wearing them loud and proud.
I am a mother, not a wizard. I share what is hard, what is scary and what is real. The rest I leave to you.