As a parent, you are responsible for the physical, emotional and spiritual management of another human being. That is an amazing task. As they grow, you are responsible for managing your involvement from complete hands on to support coach, depending on where they are in life.
I know we are all doing our best. Let’s start with that premise. Our best varies from day to day, depending on where we are in those three areas. Being a good parent involves self care and forgiveness for our shortcomings, because we are all only human and our 100% varies from day to day.
My 11 year old son got into the car on Friday with an ice pack on his shoulder. I was immediately annoyed that school didn’t call me to notify me that medical care was given to my child with no phone call or even a note. I had to put that away for the time being because that’s not what he needed. I asked him what happened and he said that in Phys. Ed., a bigger kid had elbowed him in the face and then pushed him down during a game. My kid is 11 and 60 plus pounds so he can’t compete like that, and shouldn’t have to in middle school. Again, had to put that thought away because he didn’t need anger from me.
He needed his mom, a gentler voice, to listen and provide empathy. That’s what he needed. He talked briefly about it and then just stared out the window quietly. I asked him if he wanted a Starbucks hot chocolate, a routine we have, and he said no. When we got home, I gave him another ice pack and an Advil, physical care. He then began to talk more about what happened. I listened and provided feedback that I was listening and, although I had never been bullied in school, I had been in quite a few fights as a police officer. He was interested in that so I talked more. I told him I was punched in the face by a man on drugs once. I said, I was mad at the time but I forgive him now because it was a long time ago and he was impaired by drugs, not thinking clearly. I emphasized that this just happened so I don’t expect you to forgive this kid. I’m just telling you a story.
He asked, why aren’t people kind to each other? Why can’t people just be loving toward each other? That’s a harder question to answer for anyone so I had to tailor my response to his 11-year-old mentality. I said, I don’t know. Some people just aren’t kind. That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be kind. Don’t let people change who you are, be the loving person you are in the world because that’s what the world needs, more people like us.
Going back to his physical care, I told him I have no problem if he were to hit back. Yep, I said that. He said, I thought that wasn’t okay and I don’t want to be suspended or have detention. I said, if you defend yourself by hitting back, I will pick you up and won’t say a word to you because I support that. There will always be bullies so if you need to take care of yourself (because his school is clearly not doing that, experience has taught me that), then do so. It might end the problem and kids may realize that you’re smaller but tough. And, by the way, you won’t always be small. You are growing all the time and will catch up to some of these bigger kids.
I tucked him into bed and put on his favorite television show. I brought him some food and a drink and I sat there with him and we talked some more. I put a vanilla candle in his room, a calming scent. Clearly, his feelings were more hurt than his shoulder. He doesn’t understand why people are mean. I can’t tell him the world is all butterflies and unicorns, he knows a high school in Florida just got shot up by a former student. I can’t answer why some people are mean but I do tell him that if they were happy, they would be kinder so they must be unhappy.
Being a parent in this age is so hard, and I only have one child. Being his mom is my #1 priority, all other considerations are secondary. I know when the best time to have a hard conversation is based on his moods and what we’re doing. He is most receptive right after school and at bed time. He will always want to talk to avoid going to sleep. He has a lot going on in his head.
We don’t go to church but we do talk about God and his love for us. We have spiritual conversations. He is developing into an amazing human being. I’m very proud of him and that he has so much love and empathy inside. He had a career class where they met disabled kids and worked with them and he loved that.
I really think listening is a key component of good parenting. It’s so much easier, especially after a hard day at work, to just make lunches, do homework and go through the motions. That worked in the 1960’s but today, we must do more. We must help our children navigate a very complicated world that is hard for adults to comprehend.
If you’re a parent, you are helping a young child or young adult develop into an adult human being that will have an impact on the world. The best thing you can do to make our world better is to do your best at this most important job. Your job, your car, your stuff, these are all temporary. You are leaving an impact on the world not through your career but by the human beings you produce.
Don’t be “too busy” for that. Dig deep. Put your issues to the side. Don’t parent how you were parented, no matter how great that was. That was a different era. Use the good stuff that worked for you that your parent provided as a guide, but tailor your parenting to the situation and your child. You may have to parent your kids slightly differently, based on what they need.
Parenting isn’t about you. Stickers on your car about making the honor roll are great but not the goal. The goal is to produce a productive, good person. What other people are doing or what they think is not your business. Your business is your family and your kids.
I know that I’m not perfect in any area of my life. I’m doing my best and that’s all I can expect from my son. He knows he is loved and supported and home is safe. That’s the bar I’m shooting for.
Consciously parenting is what can help make the world a better place. It all starts at home. Hurt people do terrible things. Don’t send another hurt person into the world. There are plenty of hurt people out there doing terrible things. Send a healer out into the world.
No matter what you think, you will be replaced at your work one day. Yep, even Steve Jobs, an incredible influencer, has been replaced (although his skill set has yet to be duplicated). You can’t be replaced as a mom or dad. You are the most important person in the world to your child. Make sure they get the same respect.