“I’m not a parenting expert. In fact, I’m not sure that I even believe in the idea of ‘parenting experts.’ I’m an engaged, imperfect parent and a passionate researcher. I’m an experienced mapmaker and a stumbling traveler. Like many of you, parenting is by far my boldest and most daring adventure.”Brene Brown
It was an unexpected event that taught me key lessons about what it really takes to be a good parent. I remember it like it was yesterday…
There I was ruminating on the morning’s events. I had been fighting to get my stubborn preschooler to eat something…anything.
He didn’t want a sandwich, or cereal. No shake, or crackers. No fruit or yogurt or cheese. Especially because cheese was disgusting.
Seriously! What kid doesn’t love cheese?
On the kitchen table was a collection of uneaten meals, signs of my defeat. It was an ongoing war, and my kid was winning.
He was on hunger strike for a little over 12 hours. I had no idea what to do. Neither did my husband.
Watching him play in the yard, brows furrowed and hands wringing as I pondered this new dilemma, I hadn’t noticed when he picked the lemon off the ground.
Our lemon tree didn’t bear much fruit. I am not sure why, but it was not at its healthiest. We inherited the tree when we purchased the house, and I have no clue how to raise anything…trees and, sometimes, children.
And there were a few on the tree that were ripe for the picking. But my kid though, my kid, just had to pick the half rotten one from off the dirty ground.
Before I knew it, he had that rotten lemon in his mouth, chewing away at its citric center with a hint of grossness.
Staring at him blankly as I pulled myself out of my reverie, I didn’t say anything for a few moments…couldn’t say anything actually. Words failed me.
He’s eating a rotten lemon? He’s eating a rotten lemon?!
My God! I have been fighting with this kid for hours to eat 101 different plates of wholesome meals. We have a fridge full of good, safe food. And he chooses a disgusting, decaying fruited from the fracking ground to eat!
I was the most frustrated I had ever been on my parenting journey. My eyes were stinging with the tears threatening to break free…
But then…I laughed.
The laughter bubbled from deep in my belly. My shoulders shakes with the effort, my head flung back as I lifted my face to the heavens. I flung myself forward slapping one hand on my knees and grasping the other, off rhythm with the cadence of my laughter.
My son, who had already dropped the lemon after realizing he had been caught, started laughing with me. My husband appeared, joining us in our laughter, even more so after I had been able to squeeze out an explanation between bursts of giggles.
Of course this kid, our kid, would forage in the wild for food, even as his actual home was overflowing with healthy goods. Since when do kids do anything that makes a lick of sense?
That was one of the first times I truly realized that you cannot actually control the actions of children. You can guide them, provide them with instruction and good options, and sometimes they will still go and eat that dang rotten lemon.
You should accept that parenting is an adventure.
Being a parent is my greatest adventure. And with every child, it is an adventure into the unknown.
Both of my kids are so different, in looks, actions, beliefs, needs, and more. The “maps” that worked for my friends kids or family members does not work quite the same for me.
And that’s just the reality of parenting.
You are truly a map maker. And an ambitious, amateur one at that.
You are managing the road and hills of this journey, forging new paths almost every day. Sure, you can use other maps as a guide of sorts. But you will not make much progress on your journey without realizing that you are on a different journey…and therefore need a different map.
I had sought advice from my family and friends, and even web moms, on the situation. I tried many of the things they told me. And none of it worked.
We had to find our own solution.
It definitely wasn’t the one we had expected, but it worked. (He only wanted fruit loops cereal…not the healthiest but it got us through a few days. Yes, we did have him checked by our pediatrician to be sure.)
So accept that no matter how much you prepare to be a parent, your journey will be full of surprises—like my kid eating a rotten lemon after being on a forever-long hunger strike. Be prepared to draw your own map.
Research—being open to finding new, better solutions—is an important trait of every good parent.
Parenting philosophies have changed so much over the last 100 years. Even the concept of a teenager is something that is relatively new, happening after society transitioned away from an agricultural one.
So it is no surprise that what it meant to be a good parent 50 years ago is different than what it means now. And parenting tactics have to adjust accordingly.
Plus, what do you do before you take on any important task? You learn! You research and study everything you can about it. Well, at least you should.
And to me, being a mom is the most important job that I have.
We are preparing my little ones to go out into the world and functions happy, positive, and productive members of society. It is a very important role that we have chosen to take on.
So, read parenting books, sign up for parenting blogs, listen to podcasts on parenting, search online for information on parenting questions you might have.
Sure you will have to sift through some noise to figure out what aligns with your beliefs, guts, instincts and family dynamics, but it’s better than bumbling blindly along in the dark.
And I can’t describe the number of times that my parenting research has opened my mind to possibilities I had never considered before, such as developing a more authoritative parenting style.
Sometimes you may not find a solution, but even then you could develop a sense of solidarity finding that other parents are also experiencing similar challenges. Because your journey may be unique (queue rotten lemon horror), but the fact that parenting is often confusing and difficult is not a unique concept at all.
At the end of the day, we never stop learning as human beings, should we never stop learning as parents.
“Mistakes were made…and will continue to be made,” acknowledges every good parent everywhere.
I am perfectionist at heart. I despise making mistakes. If I had all the time in the world to make everything perfect, I would use it.
Thankfully, being a parent saved me from my self-imposed, unhealthy cycle in the search of perfection—because parenting is naturally anything and everything but perfect.
The truth is, you will never be a perfect parent because no one is. There never was and there never will be. But what you can be is the best parent you can be.Tweet
You will make mistakes…
You will oversleep and be late for a game. You will forgot that one homework assignment that was due next week.
You will snap at your kids for doing annoying things. You will fall asleep in the middle of the bedtime story.
…You will miss the fact that your child is eating a rotten lemon in the yard.
Mistakes will be made. But it’s what you do after that really counts.
I prefer to laugh, if it wasn’t a tragic issue of course (leading to injury or something devastating). I laugh at myself, I laugh at the world, and I laugh at those crazy preconceived notions that I used to have about parenting.
And if necessary, I research and I learn. I figure out how to do better…like with my son’s developmental delay.
I acknowledge that mistakes will happen, I acknowledge the frustrations of those mistakes, then I release all of the negative energy into the universe.
And I teach.
I teach my kids the lesson of the moment—like, turning a rotten lemon debacle into a lesson intertwining biology and nutrition.
So acknowledge that you will make mistakes. And stop beating yourself up for them so much when they happen.
Do your best to be the parent your child needs, not the perfect parent you need to be for your own ego.
Grow, learn, laugh, teach…and repeat.
Parenting is hard—I worry a lot as a mom and continue to work through key challenges in my own journey as a working parent. But although being a mom is the most difficult experience I have ever had, it also the most rewarding, no doubt about it.
Sometimes we are too hard on ourselves to live up to all the expectations society places on us and we on our selves.
But the truth is, no one knows how to be a perfect parent and raise perfect children, especially because each journey is unique.
So be comfortable with mapping out your own journey, be open to learning new things almost everyday, and even then, accept the fact that mistakes will happen.
But as long as you are doing your best to be the parent your kids need you to be, then you are doing just fine.
So what about you? What is the most important thing you have learned in your parenting journey?
Comment below and let’s discuss!