I have a theory about the popularity of the hit show This is Us. For me, it is a television show that dives deep into the complexities of parenting. Even with the best of intentions, and a whole lotta love, Jack and Rebecca still got a few things wrong. Yes, even the perfect dad, Jack, made mistakes.
There are things in life you only learn through living. Sometimes, a little reading, mentors, and, now, the internet can help. However, lessons in life can’t always be taught.
There are three things I wish I knew before I became a parent.
1) Parenting well is challenging.
Anyone can become a parent, but being a great parent is challenging even under the best of circumstances.
Alfie Kohn says it best here:
Even before I had children, I knew that being a parent was going to be challenging as well as rewarding. But I didn’t really know. I didn’t know how exhausted it was possible to become, or how clueless it was possible to feel, or how, each time I reached the end of my rope, I would somehow have to find more rope. I didn’t understand that sometimes when your kids scream so loudly that the neighbors are ready to call the Department of Child Services, it’s because you’ve served the wrong shape of pasta for dinner. I didn’t realize that those deep-breathing exercises mothers are taught in natural-childbirth class don’t really start to pay off until long after the child is out. I couldn’t have predicted how relieved I’d be to learn that other people’s children struggle with the same issues, and act in some of the same ways, that mine do.” ~ Alfie Kohn
2) Show healthy vulnerability.
Often parents want to protect their children from the pain of struggle. The problem with parents keeping all of their challenges private is that children blame themselves every time their parents seem upset or angry.
In a child’s world, everything is their fault. Of course, what is shared with our children must be developmentally appropriate because children should never bear the burden of adult problems. But, there are many everyday challenges that can be shared in a way that downplays perfectionism and models healthy vulnerability. Think of it as an “it’s okay to not be okay” mindset.
3) Stay present.
These days we really excel at doing three or four things at once. We pack lunch-boxes while having breakfast and put on our mascara while checking email. We can also buy a birthday gift online while the TV is on and while we are sending a text message and while we are helping with homework.” ~ Irene Smit and Astrid van Der Hulst, A Book That Takes its Time
I once prided myself on being able to juggle lots of things at one time. Now, I realize the gift of presence and the value of complete and undistracted focus.
I’m learning that getting everything done means nothing if my friends and family feel they’re less important than those things.
Even if I were not a parent, I would like to think that practicing vulnerability and presence are valuable skills. Let’s work on them together, shall we?