My parents---well just my mother actually---have confessed that they deliberately raised me without praise or encouragement. "This is how it was done back then," she tells me, "You weren't supposed to build the ego, make your kid have a swelled head. It's how you were supposed to parent."
When I finally had---late, and after much effort---my first daughter, all I knew was that I wanted and needed to parent by heart.
"By heart" has changed a lot with time.
At first it meant, "read every one of the 'best' books about parenting and drive yourself crazy trying to do it all right all the time." I read everything Dr. Sears ever wrote, went regularly to his Web site, read everyone he suggested, read the Best Picks on every magazine list.
Both my husband and I...We felt the need to clean the slate, start fresh, see what the experts thought we needed to do to be good parents. I'm not sorry we did this. It was helpful, and moreover, it was lovingly motivated. We wanted to be good parents; we felt that we didn't really know how to go about it right, although we did feel that we knew a lot about how to go about it wrong. There were many good ideas that we used to overwrite the things we didn't want to do.
We intended to use the tips, tricks and techniques buffet-style: pick the best and discard the rest. We were very happy and things went along swimmingly. For the most.
Except our baby? Couldn't poop. Or sleep.
This meant something was wrong with one of us. Or so everyone said. My husband and I went to talk to doctor after doctor because surely something was wrong with this tiny person. We were the only ones who believed that, for a long time. Everyone else thought (or said), "YOU MORONS! You just can't parent properly."
Although they forebore saying it outright to me, I knew my mother and sister felt sure we just weren't parenting it out of our baby. I knew most people around us thought we were too soft. Then my sister had her third daughter. Welcome to my world, Sis!
And, we finally found a doctor who did find a physical problem, that once worked on and fixed, made a BIG difference.
Anticipating this with our second child, we were quick and proactive, careful not to allow the same problems and mistakes to go on and on, as with the first.
And we are totally different parents now.
We're tired. We can't find time to read all those books and whatever we learned from them we forgot about three years ago. And also, we know it is really hard to ruin a child when you intend to be good parents: raise them with love, care and to be good people.
We want our kids to feel unlimited...to believe they can go all the way. The truth, though, is that limits are inherent in life.
The question is how to juggle practicality and reality with encouragement.
So now, for our Stage 2 Parentign By Heart, we've implemented "fly by the set of your pants" parenting, with the follow-up, "oohh rats, sweetie, sorry, I goofed" apology when we mess it up.
(I'm pretty sure my kids have a healthy esteem. They are certainly sassy enough.)
It has taken me well into my thirties to believe I deserve to try for what I want. That I deserve the good things, success, that I earn.
A fabulous friend shared this quote with me yesterday, for Mother's Day...it's something that defines and explains what I am doing with my life just now...and is something I want my girls to grasp sooner than I did:
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our Light, not our Darkness, that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?
Actually, who are you NOT to be?
You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world.There is nothing enlightening about shrinking so that other people won't feel unsure around you. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.
It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone. As we let our own Light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.
How beautfully perceptive is that?
By Julie Pippert
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