I want to ask you a question, and I would like for you to answer it to yourself and really think about it. When you became a parent, did you have an idea of what you wanted your kids to be like. What they would like, how they would be, what you would do.
I think most of us have some kind of fantasy or dream about who our kids are and who we are as parents and I think the relationship we have with our kids depends a lot on how flexible that idea of a person is. For example, all new parents have heard about the horrors of not getting enough sleep with a newborn baby, but some might visualize it as waking up, a mellow baby cooing for food and after a fifteen minute feeding goes back to sleep, at which point you go back to sleep easily. I think very few parents visualize being woken from deep sleep by a crying baby who does a marathon feeding, doesn’t want to go back to sleep, you sweating from anxiety trying to soothe your baby who just keeps crying and you are exhausted and feel hopeless. Then when they finally go back to sleep you are so wired and tired you can’t fall back asleep right away. Or you might imagine your kid having similar interests to you, maybe you were really good at soccer and you wish for your kid to be too, but it turns out that they are not. They don’t like it, they are not good at it and forcing it isn’t fulfilling your dreams of the child you saw in your fantasy nor nurture your kid to be their best.
As parents, we have to parent the kids we have, not the kids we thought we would have, and when we do we will have the best possible relationship with them.
I was a tomboy, and until my daughter was about two and a half, she was all jeans and t-shirts. Then one day, she turned pink. Everything had to be pink. I mean everything. Honestly, I didn’t really know what to do with it. I didn’t have a pink phase, so I couldn’t personally relate. In that moment, I decided not to fight it, but to see where it would go. Maybe it would be a phase and she would be back to jeans and t-shirts, or find something else she loved as much, or this was who she was now, all pink. I realized any of those scenarios were possible, and ok. I was going to love and parent the kid I had, now who she was before, but just as she was.
When I was a kid horses were my life. My social life was hanging out with my friend at the barn, it was my safe space where I was happy and had a network of people I cared about and who cared about me. For me it was a really important part of growing up and especially the social aspect and learning to care about animals was very valuable to me. So of course I wanted that for my kids. But it turns out that my kids don’t love horse riding the same way I did. They love animals, but they are not into horse riding. It was disappointing for me because I wanted them to have what I had had. As soon as I let go of the idea that they were not going to be into horses the way I was and the way my mom was, and how we had that in common, I could start to see that all the things I got out of my horses they could get in other places. Like music. Or gaming.
If we parent the kids we have instead of the kids we thought we would have or thought we wanted, a few really wonderful things happen. First, our kids are loved as they are. That is the foundation of feeling seen and heard. Imagine the ripple in our communities if most people felt like that. Imagine a generation of kids growing up not feeling guilty for not being who they parents want them to be, feeling like they can safely explore who they are. What happens for the parents is that you make space to be curious. Being curious about who your kids are, you get to learn and explore with them. And if you play your cards right they will invite you to be part of their world, and that is a beautiful place and a really great position to be in for a strong and respectful relationship.
So parent the kids you have. Be curious. Stay curious. And love those little monsters as they are and you might just learn a thing or two about yourself.