Only a couple of generations ago, a parent’s job was to feed, clothe and house a child. The rest was up to the child. My dad went to school, played in the street, visited neighbours, came home for tea. (He also burned down a tree when left to his own devices for too long but that’s another story…) My grandmother’s job was to bake for him, keep him safe and clothe him. This was how she expressed her love. And, to this day, even though she is only with us in spirit, he feels her love as strongly as if she’s in the middle of baking him an enormous chocolate cake in the next room.
She did not analyse his every move and sit around reading parenting books, worrying that what she said to him at breakfast may have crushed his self-esteem forever. Or choosing which on-line course to sign up for so that she could perfect the art of speaking to him with respect during his tantrums.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I am not idealizing this time. Many of our parents had very hard experiences, mine included, because emotional intelligence and awareness of what we know to be true these days was not common or present in a lot of family units.
And, in a good way, the pendulum has taken a decisive swing towards conscious, kind, aware parenting. This is great. People are thinking and becoming more aware of their actions. And parents are realizing that their own self-healing and growth has a hugely positive impact on their children.
But it is also a trap. Because when we expend so much energy trying to be the best possible parent, we can actually miss out on the messy, imperfect, love-filled ups and downs of really being in our lives – and really being there with our children.
We become perfectionistic, anxious and we compare ourselves to others. We wonder if others are doing it better than we are. When our child has a meltdown in the playground, we feel self-conscious as people stare. Actually what is going on is that everyone is thinking the same thing and worrying quietly on the inside too.
The middle ground is to be found in our hearts and in our connection with our children and those around us. Somewhere between our grandparents and ourselves. It lies in listening to our own wisdom rather than the overwhelming advice available to us these days.
And when we find this place of balance, we can focus on taking care of our children from a place of trust – trusting ourselves, trusting our children and trusting the unfolding of our lives and theirs. We can bring the pendulum back to a more balanced place, where we do our best, we take care of our children and ourselves as best we can and we take a leaf out of our grandparents’ book and relax a little….