“You must first teach the child he loves. Only then will he be ready to learn everything else.” ~ Amanda Morgan
If I had nickel for all the parents I asked, “So if we do (… insert the strategy they were given …), he doesn’t have to deal with it. Can you know for sure (… insert a list of problems here …) when he grows up? “
Sadly, there is no nickel to ask questions and there is no guarantee of providing anxious parents. In fact, parental anxiety exists primarily because there is no guarantee in life.
Nevertheless, the question itself is worth considering.
Let’s take a look at it. Basically, every parent wants to know “what to do to ensure that a child is a” successful “adult who does not have to experience avoidable pain or suffering.”
Let’s sink it.
Of course, we want to get this sense of security.
Of course, we want our children to never have to experience the pain and suffering we know can happen in life.
And, of course, we want to be proactive in what we can do to help them avoid the pitfalls.
But can we?
It’s September 2020. As I write this, I am well aware that the only child was born 25 years ago tomorrow. I’m a little depressed.
Twenty-five years ago today, I was preparing for a maternity leave from the workplace that I enjoyed enough by providing mental health care to my children, teens, and their families. It was a really exciting and meaningful job, not from a sense of duty, and I was blessed with the opportunity to do it, so I spent extra time when I needed it.
And I made a plan! Parental leave can take up to 6 months, after which you will return to this wonderfully demanding job. I will find quality childcare. Everything will work.
But when I met her, that plan changed.
Due to complications, I wasn’t aware of her birth, so when I met her two hours later, she was asleep. When I woke up to a dancing elephant with pink polka dots in the hospital room, I wasn’t stunned anymore.
She was in the incubator at the foot of my bed, wearing a small pink knit hat on her small head and wrapping it all in pink. It was a girl! And I was in awe. And I’m completely in love.
At that moment, I wasn’t sure yet, but the plan changed.
My doctor stopped by her round the next morning.
“Do you have baby blue?” She asked.
“Are you crying during the Freedom 55 commercial? Do you know that little girls were born and raised and they show that they are visiting their mother with their children?”
She laughed. “It will take more than a few years to worry about it, Judith!”
“Oh, then no. We’re fine,” I muttered.
But was it me?
Early in that time, as we waited for us to leave the hospital, my overall experience of who I was and what was important to me changed mercilessly. My only priority was to take care of her. And as far as I’m aware, I could put my arms around her and meet all her needs!
In the end, I took 11 months of maternity leave and then quit my favorite but tough job. I negotiated part-time contract work that was economically and practically feasible and did not require “extra” time. And that was it.
By the time she was in preschool, I not only enjoyed working with my children, but I was able to learn strategies for “how to be a better parent” through my work, so I work with them. Especially I returned to my career. And my experience as a parent has contributed to improving the quality of my work with my children and their families. This was mutually beneficial.
Most importantly, my daughter will be a protected, safe, happy, successful, competent, confident, independent, compassionate, kind and beloved adult It was to make sure you had everything you needed to do. My efforts in all other areas of my life were guided by this intent.
If I took the time to meditate, it was to be able to be with her more.
If I continued my music lessons, it would have been her example of leisure and learning being a lifelong pursuit and part of a balanced life.
I read self-help books and help me navigate my role as a parent in the most responsible way.
I did a few things well. Really well! At other times, I got messed up and then apologized and got things right.
I know it works from time to time. And at other times it’s not very good. I will continue to be a corrupt human mother in relation to a corrupt human child.
And now she is 25 years old. She has completed her higher education program. She has loving friends and family. She has the skills and talent. She has my full support when she wants or needs it.
And despite everything I know, learn, and do, I still can’t guarantee that she will not experience any pain or suffering in her life.
At this point, she, like her peers, is about to begin her adult life in the midst of a pandemic. And that’s difficult. But, difficult for her, it’s just as difficult for me to witness. I can still put my arms around her, but I can no longer meet all her needs. And no matter what we do, there is no guarantee.
So my answer to that golden question is: No. There is no guarantee that any of the strategies we use will give children a life free of struggles, challenges, pains and conflicts.
After all, there is only one thing that really matters.It ’s whether we have a healthy relationship with them. They feel really safe and loved.
Relationships they know that we are there and that they can choose to rely on us for love and support during the inevitably painful times of life. Secure a safe place. The arms are wide open and ready to hold them.
And when we are unable to live this life with them, they can have a deep trace of love through the living experience of a safe, secure and honest relationship with us.
How do you do this?
By doing things right.
By making a mistake.
By apologizing and making amends.
By building relationships that make them feel seen, heard, understood and loved. For who they are. Not for the people we expect from them.
As soon as I remember my daughter and her birthday, I see a small bunch wrapped in pink. And I smile. She will be fine.