I was talking to some friends online today, about parenthood, its quagmires, minefields and opportunities for guilt and self-doubt. We were discussing the fact that, however hard you try, however much you put into it, however you beat yourself up, you’ll never get it ‘right’. You can do it well. Or sometimes you’ll do it badly. You will have successes and failures. Some things will make your heart sing, others will feel like total defeats. And when it goes well, you will file that lesson away for future use in similar circumstances. And when it bellyflops and leaves you scrabbling in the dirt, you’ll file that away, too. And try not to do it that way ever again 😉 That’s not to even mention the decisions we make for ourselves that impact our children, and the hours, days and weeks of agonising over them… Being a parent is a part of our journey, of our learning experience through this life and it is as much about teaching us to be a more compassionate human being as it is about guiding them through their own pitfalls and giving them the tools to be independent and compassionate adults in their own rights. Where and if at all possible.
Because our children also have their own paths to follow. They will have issues they have to deal with when they are older, and we cannot avoid that. We cannot make it perfect for them. “Perfect” doesn’t exist! I had a long conversation with my eldest son a while ago, during which I explained that I would always do the best I could for him, but that I knew very well that some of the decisions I make during his childhood will translate into ‘issues’ when he’s an adult. Our issues come from our experience, and for the longest time our experience is our childhood, no matter how perfect our parents were or how hard they tried. And that isn’t their fault (I don’t find that especially easy to write, by the way, but I do know it’s true). It’s the nature of the beast.
Ah. “Perfect doesn’t exist. It didn’t feel right writing that. Because, actually, I don’t believe it. But not in the way I meant it. Not that I mean to tie you in knots.
What I mean is that you, and your child/ren are perfect. You are the perfect tools by which to learn… whatever it is you are here to learn. Each of you. Your combination is perfect. I know. I know this sounds controversial. But it isn’t really. It’s easy to get bogged down in horrific specifics but that would be to misunderstand the point. If, for example, you found yourself in an abusive situation, you would learn from it. Whether that situation had an ultimately positive or negative outcome, it would still be a learning experience. And the younger you are, the more helpless and dependent you are, which is why these ‘issues’ have to be tackled when we’re older. So, just because it’s a simple equation, that doesn’t mean it isn’t unbearably difficult sometimes. Does that make sense? I hope so.
In slightly other news, I found this today. I loved it. An extremely healthy lesson in empathy: