Parenting 101

Amy Dickinson, in her book The Mighty Queens of Freeville, says that “Parenting is not about control, it’s about surrender.” I think that’s true. I think that parenting is about understanding that you can give your child the tools to make “good” decisions but you can’t force them to do so. You can provide guidance - a map and a compass and a water bottle and snacks- for your children to journey into their lives, but you can’t walk the path for them. It’s when we realize that we have created complete and whole human beings to do and say as they please- to make mistakes and fall and crawl and get back up and charge again- that we understand what it means to be a parent.

We try to protect our children from sadness and harm and being bumped and bruised and thrown about by the circumstances of their life, but maybe we should be just as careful about protecting them too much as we are in protecting them enough. Maybe if we let our children walk on their own and stand behind them to watch- close enough to be there if they want us, far enough away to let them act independently- maybe that’s the true gift we can give as parents. It’s heart-wrenching and gut-wrenching and may go against our instincts to wrap our children in our protection, but isn’t our real job as parents to help our children strike out on their own? Isn’t our real job as parents to act as guides and not act as dictators? Isn’t our real job as parents to put our thoughts and feelings and desires and goals second to those of our children? Isn’t our job as parents to take a step back, to take a deep breath, to push ourselves away from living our children’s lives? Isn’t our job a parents to hold our breath, and cross our fingers and say a prayer and step away?

After all, this is the life.
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