On Getting Parenthood Right
Some of us have kids. All of us were kids.
This means we all have thoughts on what parenthood means and looks like and should look like. I know I think about this topic a lot which makes sense because I have three young daughters and while mothering them is the best and most rewarding thing I've done, it's also the hardest, the messiest.
I'm currently reading the gorgeous novel All the Light We Cannot Seeand though it is certainly not a book chiefly about parenthood, there's certainly, for me, a compelling parenthood thread. Midway through the book, we follow Daniel LeBlanc's thoughts about parenting young Marie-Laure:
There has always been a sliver of panic in him, deeply buried, when it comes to his daughter: a fear that he is no good as a father, that he is doing everything wrong. That he never quite understood the rules. All those Parisian mothers pushing buggies through the Jardin des Plantes or holding up cardigans in department stores -- it seemed to him that those women nodded to each other as they passed, as though each possessed some secret knowledge that he did not. How do you ever know for certain that you are doing the right thing?
How do you ever know for certain that you are doing the right thing? Don't we all ask ourselves this question? Didn't our parents ask this question? And their parents? Won't our kids ask this question if they decide to have kids? It's a question that transcends time and place. And how do we ever know? We don't. And yet we want to, we need to, because these are our kids after all, our flesh and blood, our hopes and dreams, and we want to do right by them. Right. We want them to grow and thrive, to be happy and healthy and centered, full of kindness and compassion. We do the best we can. Even when we can't ever officially know.
Parenthood is an intrinsically mysterious and messy business. And maybe that's also why it feels so downright magical at times. Because for all the not knowing, for all the stumbling and striving and guess-work, there are moments when it just works, when all comes together, when it feels right, like we are doing just fine.
For those interested in reading more about the landscape of modern parenthood. Click links for full articles or book information:
"At the end of life, we know that a top regret of most men is that they did not lead the caring and connected life they wanted, but rather the career-oriented life that was expected of them. I will not have that regret." (Why I Put My Wife's Career First by Andrew Moravcsik, The Atlantic)
"When my first baby was born, the doctor handed her to me and said, "Meet your future teenage daughter." Then she got on the phone with her own teenage daughter, and the two of them got into a loud argument about what to eat for dinner. I still remember the daughter's aggrieved voice, audible through her mother's flip phone: "That is REVOLTING and I would rather eat DOG FOOD." (Raising a Daughter? Handle with Care - especially when she's 14 by Elisabeth Egan, The Chicago Tribune)
“Everyone is moving at the same speed toward the future. But your children are moving at that same speed with their eyes closed. So you're the ones who've got to steer.” (All Joy and No Fun; The Paradox of Modern Parenthood by Jennifer Senior)
"There are two different types of time. Chronos time is what we live in. It's regular time, it's one minute at a time, it's staring down the clock till bedtime time, it's ten excruciating minutes in the Target line time, it's four screaming minutes in time out time, it's two hours till daddy gets home time. Chronos is the hard, slow passing time we parents often live in." (Don't Carpe Diem by Glennon Doyle Melton)
"It is almost never about you. What I mean is when people act in a way that hurts or makes you feel insecure, it is almost certainly about something happening inside of them, and not about you. I struggle with this one mightily, and I have tried very, very hard never once to tell you you are being “too sensitive” or to “get over it” when you feel hurt. Believe me, I know how feelings can slice your heart, even if your head knows otherwise. But maybe, just maybe, it will help to remember that almost always other people are struggling with their own demons, even if they bump into you by accident." (10 Things I Want My 10 Year Old Daughter to Know by Lindsey Mead)
"But we really need to make an effort to get in the picture. Our sons need to see how young and beautiful and human their mamas were. Our daughters need to see us vulnerable and open and just being ourselves -- women, mamas, people living lives. Avoiding the camera because we don't like to see our own pictures? How can that be okay?" (The Mom Stays in the Picture by Allison Tate)