When I was pregnant with Jackson, I was clueless. Yes, I knew more about what was happening physiologically in my body than most 27-year-olds, but as far as parenting was concerned, I didn’t know diddly squat. Just because we were once children, had parents, or that women have been giving birth for millions of years, doesn’t mean we know what we’re doing.
No one has a perfect, ideal situation. Even if you’re married, financially secure, and have a support system, shit happens. I didn’t have any of those things but the one thing I did have was glorious naiveté, and it is the only thing that saved us. My biggest concerns were whether or not he knew I loved him, and whether or not he loved himself. I wanted him to understand that there were repercussions for his behavior. Common sense and natural consequences. That was pretty much it.
Despite being in a relationship with someone who had loads of ideas and opinions about parenting – especially how I was doing it wrong – I turned out to be the Enforcer aka the Heavy aka the Bad Guy. I did my best to be consistent but I made my share of mistakes. Parents are human, after all.
In honor of Valentine’s Day, I’m reflecting on What is Love, for me, in parenting…
- Letting him fall, over and over again, while he shimmied up the external supporting poles of a playground structure. Once he reached a height where his injuries would require a trip to the hospital, I would stand below him, ready to catch.
- Encouraging all manner of creative expression including magic markers on his face (and occasionally the wall,) wearing tutus and bunny ears out to run errands, using every roll of tape in the house, and cutting up his tent to build himself wings.
- Showing him the importance of continually developing friendships – that we make new ones, lose old ones, and keep some around forever.
- Calling the school principal when he was repeatedly bullied in fourth grade (yes, he tried his words and compassion first but sometimes, you need a grown up to have your back.)
- Playing it cool when he split his forehead open on a rock, when he broke his collarbone, when he had pneumonia, when he broke his wrist, and after numerous concussions.
- Crying in front of him after having my feelings hurt, showing him I can cry and still be ok.
- Trusting that he’ll make good decisions, and hoping that when he makes mistakes, he’ll own them, learn from them, forgive himself, and move on.
- Singing in the kitchen to our favorite pop songs (but not letting anyone know he loved pop songs, see: Kelly Clarkson, Jonas Brothers)
- Remembering to support and celebrate his adventures and failures, and reminding him to stop and smell the flowers, touch the trees, and watch the butterflies.
Being a parent isn’t a competition. You don’t win at the end. The ‘winning’ is when they come into your life and you have the opportunity to explore that relationship. The one with your self, the one you had with your own parents, and the one you might get to have with your kiddo.
With love, boundaries, a little grace, and a lot of luck.