As a parent, this is the ultimate burden for most of us. Ensuring we get our kids on the right track so they have a good life, plenty of opportunities and steer them adequately towards success is where it’s at right? What if this is secretly and simultaneously getting us off the hook for stuffing up this parenting gig though? More importantly what if there is no hook to get off?
Happy kids and successful adults = good job Mum & Dad! Phew, I can quite literally feel the depths of the exhale. This is the silent parameters we can often put on ourselves and our children without even recognising it. The secret infestation of pressure to keep our kids on track as opposed to allowing them the freedom to try, fall, get back up, try again and yes, stuff it up time and time again!
Parenting is two-fold most definitely. The desire (for most) to love and protect and create opportunities for our children to thrive mixed with a more silent and quiet desire for us to know we’ve done enough. As I see it much of the safeguarding and cotton wall wrapping is not so much about our offspring, as it is about us as parents wanting to ensure our enoughness. Did I do enough? Am I good enough? Our desire for enoughness has somehow intertwined with how our kidlets turn out and the representation of us as their care-givers.
I’m not advocating for not giving a toss, I think it is integral to our children’s development that they absolutely know we give a toss, yet it’s what we care about that matters. What if who we are as parents is not determined by our children’s right choices, good traits, lifetime success stories? Nor on the other hand, determined by their stuff-ups, despondency or inadequacies!
So why is it super important to be able to step back and recognise this slight differentiation? Why is it important to ask ourselves “Why do i feel the way about this situation?” Because it fundamentally impacts the way in which we connect and protect them. Our response system if we are honest and recognise that their behavior has been taken as a reflection of who we are, will be a much more heightened, defensive, reactive energy.
Our need to protect ourselves, our reputation, our own success in regards to our parenting role, will always be under threat if our identity is directly connected to how our children turn out. Internally we will find ourselves thrashing about and agonising over situations that could easily be handled with conscious communication and personal responsibility.
Take the child who wants to study Drama while their parents are angling for Science? Or the child who parties more than they study? Or the daughter who loves the ‘no-hoper’? There are so many ways as parents we want one thing while our children want another.
For younger children, what about the child who is socially awkward while the other kids play harmoniously? Or the child who is ‘behind’ in reading while his mates smash it out of the park? Or the child caught nicking a packet of gum while everyone else does the right thing?
What stories are we telling ourselves about who we are and the job we are doing? What little voices are whispering in the background “You failed, look at them?”
But life is about trial and error is it not? About finding our place, where we fit and where we don’t. What works for us and what doesn’t. So what if what works for our kids isn’t what works for us? Can we separate our enoughness from them for as long as it takes for them to experience life how they’ve been called to? Can we accept that who we are, to the depths of our soul, is not changed by the choices or life experiences our children have?
If Johnny is a CEO doesn’t change our ‘good enough’ status as a parent, just as Sally getting pregnant at 16 doesn’t either. What changes our enoughness is our willingness to know who we are beyond our children, beyond society and beyond what history has deemed as acceptable.
Children deserve unconditional love… love without condition as do parents. They are not ‘good enough’ when they get it right, just as we are not ‘good enough’ when they do. Each and every person is here to experience life in a certain way and disconnecting our enoughness and how much we matter from a person’s choices and life experiences (especially our children) will go a long way in bringing us closer.
That doesn’t mean we won’t feel disappointment or agitation or that we shouldn’t feel excited or proud, it just means we don’t lose our identity in the outcomes of our children’s lives.
The trick is holding on enough to ensure our children feel safe and letting go enough so that we do!