Real Life Parenting: Dispense with the Bullshit
Let’s get this straight right off. I am a real psychologist with a Ph.D., and I am a mother of two. I say that in case you start to question my background mid-read. This blog flies in the face of many things you’ve heard about parenting.
Let’s cut to the chase. The best and most important thing we can do for our children is love them and convey love for them. This doesn’t mean always trying to control them, push them, perfect them. It means being present in mind and body out of a spirit of love. Listen to what your children say and hear it as important. Consider it. Act out of love for them and not self-interest.
This is simple but very hard, which is why I say dispense with the bullshit — which is anything that gets in the way of this simple message. The bullshit is “not good enough” thinking, guilt, shame, doubt. The bullshit is all the other “rules” and “shoulds” of parenting that distract us from being present and loving. Parenting isn’t robotic, and it isn’t manualized.
Know, without a doubt, that you will fuck up. You will! And that is okay because your intention will have been born out of love. The consequences aren’t always the catastrophes we create in our minds.
I am famous for saying that you have to screw up in some very big ways over a long period of time to do lasting damage. I mean that. Too much worrying and overthinking is a complete waste of time as long as we love.
Too much love can be control. Wise love is that which allows us to let go and allow our children to learn freedom and independence. Wise love tells us that our children will forgive us when we make mistakes, and we will forgive them.
I am incredibly grateful to be able to say that if I could go back to any time in my life, it would be my middle school years. Who can say that?! I ran my neighborhood like the ringleader of an orphan gang. I played in dirty creeks, had legs full of biking injuries, ate all the sugar I could get, and wore no shoes. I can remember my mom yelling, and I was seemingly deaf. I don’t know if it is accurate, but I have a memory of her chasing me in the yard with a stick. I was laughing and running like it was a game of tag because I knew she’d never catch me, and if she did, she wouldn’t know what to do. My parents loved me, and I knew it. (To be clear: I was not abused, and I am not condoning abuse or violence. That is not what I am describing here.)
The “experts” tell us that my mom did it all wrong. In fact, my mom would tell you that she was a terrible mother and has a ton of guilt to this day. I think I turned out okay, although some might argue. I just want to say that if you met the “experts,” you might have second thoughts about their advice. But, what greater gift could my parents give me than beautiful memories of childhood? I am talking REAL memories — not picture book memories where everyone is smiling and beautiful. I mean real life memories with dirt, tears, and mistakes.
When my boys were 18 months, my babysitter said I should potty train them because that was what she did. So, I got some books, and we set off. Complete waste of time and complete mindfuck. They achieved potty training at just shy of 3.5 years. I threw the books in the trash and said, “That’s bullshit. I’m not doing that.” I stopped buying books. I was present, and I learned that my kids and I are the experts in our own lives. I still screw up, but it has been wonderful.
I still have to fight the guilt and second guessing, but I know that being a good parent it isn’t the running from event to event. It isn’t buying the latest gadgets, technology, clothes, and other “stuff.” It isn’t getting into the best schools and getting the best grades. It isn’t about being the role model of calm and providing an “everything you do is wonderful” attitude. It isn’t about pleasing them. It isn’t about being perfect and giving every opportunity. It absolutely isn’t about solving every problem for them.
It is about putting down phones and computers. It is about being real and role modeling real — mistakes and all. It is about giving really honest feedback that sometimes hurts. It about time and energy and genuine love and acceptance — both for them and ourselves.
Give yourself a break. Dispense with the bullshit. You are the expert in your own life. It is all just the way it is supposed to be. Happy Mother’s Day!