We are many things to many people in our daily lives. Most of us have gotten really skilled at juggling all of the responsibilities we have in the family, in professional circles, with friends and community at large. Parenting is a big role for me as it is for many others. And the recurring theme is how we are doing in this role.
During the school year with its busy schedules, pressing deadlines and all the extra driving to do I find myself most often in the mode of getting things done. Not much time left in the day for contemplating. But just like in business we use slower times as opportunities to strategize, the relaxed pace of the summer break allows to step back and look at the bigger picture of parenting. Am I being as good of a parent as I can be? Am I focused on the right things? Am I doing “enough”? And, most importantly, when all is said and done what is the ultimate measure of parental success? These are the questions as parents many of us might be having from time to time. Is your performance measured by what you are able to provide for your children or the number of smiles you put on their faces? Is it determined by the path you have paved for your child or by their ability to actively pursue their own dreams?
In our desire to help our children to learn to navigate through life with the least amount of pain, we generously dedicate our attention to them. And usually, there are two kinds of attention. The first kind is the one we cannot stop giving. It’s the action packed attention. Did the kids finish their homework on time? Have they eaten healthy? Are they dressed for the weather? Did they clean their rooms? This kind of attention is always about taking action and evaluating the results. I believe that nothing is wrong with it, it is needed as it serves our children’s best interests. After all, the mentality of getting things done is what got us to where we are in our lives today and still keeps us moving in the right direction. So it’s only natural for us as parents to guide our children along the familiar path towards their future goals.
It’s the other kind of attention I am still in the process of mastering: the one we are capable of when we finally stop giving directions, expecting action and evaluating. I’m working on refining my ability to immerse myself in listening, looking and being present, without jumping in with my most helpful suggestions and motherly advice. I noticed that those moments when you are just being there and allowing the child be – is when the magic begins and they open up in ways that they wouldn’t normally do in the action filled fast lane.
Being mothers and fathers means constantly being concerned with our children’s well-being and the quality of the decisions they make. It’s hard to take off our “parenting” hat and stop giving the direction and guidance. But, the amount of this action packed attention is not the only deciding factor in how well our children will do in the future. As much as we wish to provide them with our full protection, we can’t shelter them from everything in life. We have to accept that certain lessons they will have to learn on their own, and those experiences will help them become better decision makers.
So, maybe successful parenting is about developing mindfulness and finding the right balance between “doing” and “being”. And the true measure of mindful parenting is in knowing that you have done everything you could for your child and letting them become who they will choose to become.
I would like to hear about your experiences – whether you are a parent or even a child in the relationship. How have you been able to achieve the balance?
Love to hear your thoughts, Natella. I think that every parent who is the trenches with their kids, trying (and sometimes failing) and in general loving their messy lives is doing their best to be successful.
I agree it is hard to let them fly on their own… and i’m learning more and more that my job isn’t to take away their pain, it’s to teach them how to feel it. Their resiliency in life depends on us showing them how to deal with the muck, learn from it, and press on with their lives.
Hi Erica , thank you for sharing! You are right, despite the challenges of the life in the trenches they do give us lots of reasons to love this life. And as hard as letting go is, I’m just glad that at least it’s a gradual process which allows us plenty of opportunities to learn from each other.
For me parenting is a very important and at the same time a very challenging role. And it is really difficult to achieve a balance between doing and being
You are right, Lida. It isn’t easy at all to find that balance point in parenting I am an experienced mum, but sometimes still struggling between where do I stop doing things for my kids and where do I just begin being there for them.
Very interesting post! Thank you, Natella!
What I can add is that parenting is never easy – I always wanted to do my best but I am never 100% satisfied with the results. Maybe I’m just being too hard on myself:)
We never are quite that satisfied with the job we do. It’s like self-criticism is in our blood. Time to learn to be happy with what we do and give ourselves credit for all the hard work. 🙂
Self-Criticism describes exactly how I feel sometimes as I decide when to push my daughter and when to pull back. I consider my role as a father one of continuous development at the same time supporting my daughter in her development from a girl into a young woman. I try to learn from each new situation that I face with her by how she reacts and grows herself vs how involved I was and whether she would have benefitted from either more or less from me. My goal is to give her the tools she needs to build her life and hopefully I can give her the freedom to use those tools how she sees fit.
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