This morning after taking my daughter to school I decided to walk the long way home so that I could have a little alone time in my head before all the craziness starts up. Going into June is always a busy time as our school year is winding down and the celebrations for the last of everything are ramping up. We are heading directly into the silly season filled with end of school parties, end of gym parties, end of dance parties, last minute before the Summer starts birthday parties. The list goes on and on. My children go into overdrive and I need head space in preparation for it all!
On my quiet walk in the rain it occurred to me that there was so much about this hiking trail that reminds me of my parenting journey. I took more than a few pictures to try and explain just what I mean.
Come along, let’s take a walk.
1. Setting Off.
When we prepared to have our children (a little more than a decade ago) we willingly set off on this journey. We had no definite plans, no map pinpointing our direction, just a vague idea of what we hoped for and a blurry sense of how we would ge there. (Clearly we had no idea of what we were in for, and that is probably a very good thing, or like many people, we would have been too terrified to give it a go!).
A few weeks after having our first child we discovered that there were a couple of different parenting paths to follow. We choose one that appealed to us the most, pretty much go with the flow, take it as it comes, see what happens kind of thing. Each day unfolded differently. One child became two and things really got interesting. Some days were like walking along a smooth paved path, some days were clearly marked with directional arrows (and we felt like we were heading in the right direction) and others still seem to be more like a walk on the wild side, where none of us have a clue where we are all going to end up!
2. Let the Second Guessing Begin.
Once on the path we realised that there are other parents on very different paths and we began to wonder if we had chosen the right path for us and our children. What ‘right’ actually means we don’t really know for sure, but when things aren’t going well, we begin to think that any path that we are on is probably be the wrong one! The terror of it all takes over, what if everyone else is doing it right and our kids turn out wrong? Again, what exactly is ‘wrong’ anyway? I now put it all down to GPA diagnosis. Generalised Parental Anxiety. We all want the very best for our children and when we feel that we aren’t giving them exactly that, the guilt and the fear in us takes over. Not a good place to be.
The more we look around us the more we realise that everyone is trying something different, if it isn’t sleep training ,it is parenting on demand, if it isn’t reward charts it is consequences. Too many more options to even mention. Some parents go this way, some parents go that way and some are so far off the beaten track altogether you have to wonder if they’ll ever make it anywhere. We take comfort in knowing we are doing the best that we can, and that surely counts for something!
3. When in Doubt, Google it…or Not!
We keep our heads down, following our path, occasionally looking up to see what other are up to. In the early days (I’d say particularly in the first five years of being parents ) every now and again, sometimes more than we would like, we would run into an obstacle in our parenting path that we just didn’t know what to do with…soooo… We’d google it! We’d get an ‘experts’ take on it, try and figure it out.More times than not though, those experts brought with them more damage than good so we have given up on them now, instead we find our own way through as no one knows our own kids quite like we do.We continue to confront the boulders and the puddles and for the most part seem to come out the other side relatively unscathed.
4. Take the Time to Stop and Smell the Roses.
Don’t get me wrong, we’re not on a path littered with obstacles all along the way. There are plenty of good days in between, in fact, many more good days than tough days now that we have found our way through with our girls. There are plenty of opportunities to stop and smell the roses…and we do…we enjoy every peaceful moment…
And just when we think we have it all going on and it will be love and roses all the way…
5. Shit Happens.
Love stays but we walk into a mess, more than we originally signed up for and we wonder how we could have ever thought we had this parenting thing sorted! As it turns out, when you have kids, shit really does happen! Sometimes we walk right into the middle of it, and sometimes we manage to skirt by it, but it is always there…just the type and depth varies! It would seem that growing children up is a messy business and when you expect it to be, you are much better prepared for what you will find on your trail!
6. Let Me Outta Here.
So, when we come across a steaming heap and we step in it, we wipe off our boots and we keep going, after all, what choice do we really have? We all reach the point (tell me I am not alone here) when we want to stop the parenting journey and get off, it’s just too hard. We want to find a sign on the ground that instructs us to get off the trail, that gives us permission to stop, to get off wherever this parenting thing is heading, we just want a break from it all.
And then, we get over ourselves, realize that we love these children of ours and that they are ours for keeps and as hard as it may be, we’re glad that it is so. We have to figure out which way to go and we do, even when we reach a fork in the road, we make a choice, left or right, the smoother option or the road less travelled…sometimes leading right into the unknown and sometimes left to a safe crossing.We pick the one that appears best, even though we never know for sure.
8. It Could Go Either Way.
Over the bridge…or through the woods? We’ll all get where we are going eventually, we just don’t know how long it might take us or what we might encounter along the way, but that is the great part about this parenting journey, it is ours to take and although plenty of mistakes will be made along the way, there is so much to be gained by choosing our own path because these children are ours. What others are up to has very little bearing on what we do for our family. This is our journey…and you get to choose yours.
9. Things are changing.
As time passes, without us truly being aware, our children have been growing up. We are so focussed on the day to day living that seldom do we realise that all of our efforts are beginning show in our children. They are who they are, who they are meant to become. We are starting to see the fruit of maturation.
10. But We Get Distracted.
Growing children come with lots of attitude and plenty of messy behaviour. When we only focus on behaviour we are distracted from who they really are and what they really need from us. We don’t realise that they are putting up defenses in order to protect themselves from that which hurts. I have learnt that in times of strife I need to pull them closer to me, rather than pushing them away because our relationship is the most important thing we have and the fruit of maturation is in there, not always visible but tucked safely behind the thorns. When we look beyond the thorns we see how vulnerable they really are, and those vulnerable feelings need to be kept safe so that they can keep our children’s hearts soft. We can all grow older but without our vulnerable feelings we can’t grow up.
11. More Than We Could Ever Hope For.
And then, sooner than we might expect it, we looked at our children and realised that they are growing up, truly growing up from the inside out. Not because of what we do to them, but because of who we are to them. And then we look at ourselves and realise that alongside them, we too have grown up, not because of what they have done to us, but because of who they are to us. We are all on that same trail together, on the journey towards truly growing up, all going about it in different ways but all yearning to one day get to the same destination, that place where we each reach our potential to become fully human.
12. And There is No End.
The ironic thing is, there is no end to this trail journey. It just keeps on going…like Forrest Gump! These children will always be ours, and we’ll always be theirs . The sooner we are able to accept each other for who we are, the good, the bad and the ugly, the more we will enjoy this hike towards truly growing up together.