Two things have prompted me to think about parenting. Last night, I was watching a new show (one of the Jay Leno NBC replacement shows) called (surpisingly) “Parenthood”, which seems to me to be a fairly accurate representation of the struggles of parenting (with the exception of the character of the patriarch’s youngest son, who I think is not very believable and is also a total ass). Then this morning, I was reading an article in the Trib about a class being offered through some of the suburban high schools that supposedly teaches people to be better parents of teen-agers.
And then this got me to thinking about my parenting philosophy. Not that my personal parenting philosophy matters to anyone else, or is the right one. Not that my parenting philosophy results in my being a perfect parent. In fact, I have many stories of imperfect parenting. (One of my favorite examples is standing at Disney’s Animal Kingdom with a then7-year-old Emma, shouting, “I did not pay all this money to have you come here and play with a Gatorade bottle! Now look at the animals!”) While I have never actually left my child at Chuck-E-Cheese, or forgotten to pick up a child from soccer practice, I have had many moments of getting to work and wondering whether I actually dropped the kids off or whether they were still in the van, because I wasn’t really paying attention to what I was doing when I dropped them off.
But while it doesn’t make me the Perfect Parent, my parenting philosophy does act as a filter for me when I’m faced with decisions. So here it is, for what it’s worth:
I believe that my job as a parent is not to make my kids happy. Nor is it to make my kids thrive. My job as a parent is to help my children learn the skills they will need to thrive without me. Not only has remembering this philosophy been a useful filter for me over the years as I’ve had to make decisions in the heat of the moment. It’s also given me great strength in overcoming the pull to rescue my kids, or to give in to what they want. To hold on. As a 6-month-old was crying in his crib in the middle of the night because he wanted a bottle, and I knew that if I held on, he would figure out how to get himself back to sleep. As that same child, now 6, had an anxiety attack over his upcoming swimming lesson, and I knew that if I held on, he would get through the lesson and have a tremendous feeling of accomplishment and pride because he overcame his fear. As a different child begged me to bring to school her lunch-forgotten-on-the-kitchen-table, and I knew that if I held on, she would not starve, and maybe she’d be more likely to remember it next time. And as I drag a tantrummy youngest child to time out in her room, and I know that if I hold (and hold on and hold on and hold on), at some point, maybe she’ll learn some self-control.
Help them learn the skills they will need to thrive without me. And then just love them as hard as I can.