What is parenting?

We’ve received oodles of loving, supportive, congratulatory notes from folks as we’ve announced our pregnancy. One thing several have noted — and I’ve heard said before — is that parenting is one of the hardest jobs ever. What I’ve noticed within myself is a resistance to thinking of it as “hard work.” My monkey mindtalk says I’m naive and that only someone who hasn’t ever been a parent would think such inanity. Mindtalk be damned, however, I told Baby Lav-Mulk how I wanted to think of parenting.

My parenting vision
I envision parenting as soul-opening, heart-expanding, growth-inducing, and ego-eradicating. I also hope that being a parent will help me let go of that which no longer serves me, embrace the truth about myself, and become more fully who I was made to be. To me, parenting is about serving — both another soul and a higher calling — which, although certainly imbued with moments of great challenge, is truly one of the most pleasurable parts of life.

So I have two questions for you.

  • In what positive or affirming way do/did you frame parenting to help guide you through this important role?
  • If your ideas about how to “do” parenting changed over time, in what ways did they shift?

If I had my child to raise all over again,
I’d build self-esteem first, and the house later.
I’d finger-paint more, and point the finger less.
I would do less correcting and more connecting.
I’d take my eyes off my watch, and watch with my eyes.
I’d take more hikes and fly more kites.
I’d stop playing serious, and seriously play.
I would run through more fields and gaze at more stars.
I’d do more hugging and less tugging.

~Diane Loomans, from “If I Had My Child To Raise Over Again”

There are two lasting bequests we can give our children. One is roots. The other is wings.

~Hodding Carter, Jr.

8 thoughts on “What is parenting?

  1. Well, parenting is incredibly hard work, but I don’t think that’s a negative thing. Most good things are worth working hard for. Soul-expanding, heart-opening, growth-inducing, yes. (I won’t speak to ego-eradicating …) But I think the main things I’ve learned from parenting are about letting go of control, letting go of my illusions about my ability to set the course of life (mine or anyone else’s), easing up on myself, trusting that something/someone bigger than me is fully engaged and in love with my child even when I’m not able to be. Almost every parent I know will laughingly say, “Oh, I was such a better parent before I became one!” All our ideas about the way we would react in any given situation gave way to the day-to-day reality and it was really, really OK. We do the best we can, love the most we are able and forgive ourselves for all the rest.

    And the Loomans poem is excellent advice, of course. When you can remember. And when you can’t, oh well. Life goes on and so does your child’s growth.

    1. Laura, your comment about letting go of control is a big one for me and something I anticipate getting plenty of practice with. Two friends recently shared what I thought were really wise comments. One mentioned that this baby’s soul has it’s own guidance system — which may or may not always be in sync w/Bruce or my guidance systems. The other mentioned that friends of hers who she believes are great parents say “Our kids are perfect as they are, so our main job is to interfere as little as possible.”

      I love to learn and it’s a good thing since I’m in for the greatest learning experience of my life. 🙂

  2. Eileen Melton

    To answer your first question: This too shall pass! So much of what they go through (physically in the first couple years) is just a phase that they seem to grow out of in about 3 to 5 months. So, don’t fret too much.
    Now that my kids are grown, I wish I would have instilled more of a sense of work ethic, letting them do more as early as possible. Assign them chores appropriate to their age and don’t do everything for them.
    Also, even though they are cute as can be, compliment them on their abilities ie. problem solving, not giving up, completing tasks and working hard toward their goals. Sounds lofty but you can actually start this when they are very young.

    1. Eileen, your comment about them going through phases seems like it could be both a blessing and a curse. “This too shall pass,” may bring comfort when the “this” is something we don’t like, yet may bring sadness when the “this” is something we adore. I hope I’ll be able to be present as much as possible and take in what is, knowing that each experience is fleeting.

  3. David Bate

    Hi. Can’t say I did a great job. What I did learn was that children call up more of my strengths and weaknesses than any other identifiable agent. Consciousness is good. We mostly have no idea how the way we are affects others, and especially our children. My current idea is that each kid comes in expecting parental perfection. Failure is definitely an option. But love moves in very mysterious ways. I wish I could have been more…and that about sums it up. I got very lucky in the children I got, and they are doing great, often in spite of me. The books and advice are all fine, and they are also useless. And yes, it is very hard work and very joyful and very like life on this crazy planet.

    1. Dave, I really appreciate your share about what your kids call forth in you and also that “love moves in mysterious ways.” I know that who I am today was strongly influenced by my parents — some from behaviors, beliefs, and habits I appreciated and some from ones I completely disagreed with. I do hope I can be a model for our child, yet also trust that s/he will learn when not to use me as her/his model.

  4. Sharon Owen

    My ah-ha moment was when our two (who are 22 months apart and grown now) were about 1 and 3. I was feeling sorry for myself as a full-time working parent (Rusty didn’t help much with the kids), and I was taking it out on them (being short-tempered). One day it hit me that they were blessings – not burdens. I never looked back! It was like God gave me just the tool I needed for joyful parenting no matter what. (and there have been some pretty big no matter whats!) Thanks for sharing your journey. Blessings, Shonnie and Bruce! sgo

    1. Thank you for your story, Sharon. As a recovering perfectionist, I especially appreciate it when people are willing to share there “dark side” because it reminds me that we do come through those difficult moments. Here’s hoping I get those “ah ha’s” when I’m stuck in an unloving or unhelpful space.

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