Every time my daughter reaches out, I tell myself how fortunate and blessed I am to have her as my child. Our conversations are filled with silliness, seriousness, questioning and sometimes sadness. But the one factor that remains the same is the mutual respect that we have for each other. I honor and respect my daughter for gifting me with patience and discernment. And to hear her tell me, “Mom, thank you for giving me such a wonderful life,” not only brings joy to my heart, it also reminds me that I had to learn how to differentiate between setting limits for her that would keep her safe, while knowing when to simply let her take risks as she came into her essence. Not an easy task, it required that I not live my life vicariously and to have the courage to allow her to navigate through difficult situations.
There is one thing I can say with great confidence and that is, when it came to parenting, I attempted to be consistent, firm and structured when interacting with her. And that is how our relationship has bloomed into what it is today. I learned how to listen with discernment but also guide her and that included knowing when to say no, as well as sharing with her that I didn’t have an immediate answer to her question or about her request by telling her, “I need time to think on that.” She was also a witness to my vulnerabilities, but just enough to teach her, that it takes courage to be truthful with oneself and admit to the strengths and challenges we experience.
All this to say that, as parents, as well as other important adults in a young person’s life, we have been charged with teaching and guiding them through their physical, cognitive, emotional and social development. I am a firm believer that there are many individuals who have assisted my daughter in developing grit and resiliency, all the while allowing her to be soft and messy. If anything, she’s tougher on herself than I am, and when I ask her why she’s that way, she says she is” learning about her life’s purpose.”
I think back on how my daughter’s play, revolved around making “machines.” She would turn our house into a workshop and use various items throughout the house to create her contraptions. If we provide our children with an environment where they’re not afraid to create, experiment, ask questions, fail and try again, then we are assisting and preparing them to acquire cognitive skills such as thinking, memory and attention. These skills prepare your child to remember, understand cause and effect, evaluate, synthesize, understand and make comparisons.
As parents, we have the responsibility to teach our children how to respect and honor their physical being. Setting consistent bedtimes, teaching them about healthy eating, sexuality, hygiene and exercising will help them develop into their bodies and begin having a positive body image. Think about how your parents dealt with their physical body and wellness. Do you share similar practices or because they may have had a different or challenging relationship with their body, you told yourself that you would do things differently? These habits will help your child when they’re doing physically well or when their body challenges them.
Parenting affords us the opportunity to teach our children about social interaction, compassion, negotiation, compromise and understanding. They learn this, by watching us, as parents. That’s why it’s so important to talk to your child so that they can learn how to have relationships with others based on positive interactions, as well as how to deal with those that are challenging. And by having the “tough” conversations, which could lead to disagreements, you are teaching them about how to be tolerant and accepting of differences and how their choices will impact others. These conversations help children learn about how to deal with anxiety and the day to day stressors that we all experience. It is also a way for children to understand what they can and cannot control. One day those tough conversations will hopefully make sense, if not in the present moment, then perhaps in the future. By modeling the act of not doing, or talking, you are teaching your child when to step back and practice discernment.
I view myself as a courageous parent. I set limits with my daughter, had disagreements, learned to listen and share my thoughts and feelings and when not to, even though inside I felt that somehow her decisions were not always going to be the best ones for her. I had to learn that no matter what I said to her in my efforts to help her, she would ultimately respond to situations through her worldview. Sometimes as parents, the toughest thing for us to do, is to step back and let our children walk their journey. If we walk “our journey” as loving, caring and consistent parents, then we can look forward to witnessing our children learn not only from what we taught them, but also from what we failed at.
Be courageous in your parenting.