The secret to perfect parenting is (drum roll, please) that there is no such thing as the perfect parent—there are only real parents.
Learning to let go of our personal expectations of how our children will turn out is the secret to being a great real parent.
Real parents remember that their children are people too, with their own likes and dislikes, which may be different—even radically different—than their own.
Carrots and College
Junior sat in his high chair. I placed a plate of cooked carrots—his favorite—in front of him. I took out his special airplane-shaped spoon and lovingly scooped up a bit of the bright orange mush.
As the spoon began its jet-setting departure towards my adorable toddler’s mouth, I suddenly felt the world go into slow motion. Out of nowhere my precious and obedient little guy boomeranged his supper all over my new blouse, making a few pit stops at my hair, my shoes and even a little in my mouth.
With all the dignity of his newfound emancipation, he announced: “I DON’T LIKE CARROTS.”
I couldn’t believe it. Carrots were always my favorite vegetable! When had I given Junior permission to have an opinion of his own?
What would be next? Would he want pineapple on his pizza? Would he prefer baseball to tennis? Would he refuse to go to my college alma mater? (Of course I had his college all picked out for him.)
Let’s face it, the first time we realize that our child is truly his own person is a shocking one. We often worry and even obsess over how our kids will turn out. We read all the right books and go to all the right classes.
In all our preparations and with all our expectations, we often fail to integrate one of the hidden secrets to perfect parenting—letting our child be himself. And letting go of too many expectations.
I hear versions this same concern almost daily at the OT Thrive office. The look on these worried parent’s faces is real.
Some parents feel defeated that they ended up in my office in the first place. Other parents might feel disappointed if treatment is not going as they had envisioned. Still others confide in me that though treatment is leading to real improvements, other areas of their child’s life seem to be spiraling out of their control.
Whether it is physically, emotionally or spiritually it is helpful to remember that their lives really aren’t in our control.
If letting go seems incredibly difficult, it’s because it is. Letting go, both physically and emotionally, is one of the hardest jobs we parents have. It’s also important to be easy on ourselves as we learn to give our child space.
Try to focus on the positive benefits of letting go of our expectations. Allowing our children to travel their own path to self-actualization will help them become more confident and happy people. We can’t do this for them.
Sometimes, a parent will tell me they just simply don’t know how to let go.
I suggest doing some breathing exercises. (I’ll talk more about them in an upcoming post.) Also, try incorporating prayer or meditation into your day. While working on letting go, take the time out to talk out your concerns and pray for a more favorable outcome. Introducing spirituality into your life, finding time for self-reflection and connection, will not only benefit you, but also benefit your child.
Wishing you meaningful parenting,
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