The Parent’s Journey

Being a parent is such an incredible experience that it is hard to remember not being a parent even after only a  few weeks of being one. The responsibility is great. To  have a newborn so dependent on you is on the one hand very  gratifying and fulfilling and on the other hand very scary.

I came across a quote by Richard Carlson, the author  of Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff. Mr. Carlson says, “We are  given the opportunity to be responsible for children for a  relatively short period in their lives, to guide them until  they are ready to find themselves”.

This quote speaks of the dilemma parents face in  loving, caring, and protecting their child, at the same  time giving up control, letting them grow, and allowing  them to become themselves. How we do this over time is a  very personal part of parenting that cannot be taught. It  must be lived and experienced. Facing this conflict is one  all parents must do whether we get blind sided by it or  face it openly.

When we become parents we get lulled into the idea  that we control so much. We are satisfied by feeding our  child and hearing satisfied burps coming from him or her.  He falls asleep on our chest and we feel the awe of having  our child sense the security of our arms. It takes some  time, many months, for us to see a personality in our  child. Then we see our child’s desire to call some shots.  At some point we turn against our child’s will by saying  “No, I can’t let you do that”. We see the resistance the  child puts up when their will is crossed. We watch further  as we see their will develop into interests, and their  interests eventually into who they are. We help by  promoting their interests while continuing to say “No” to  some of their desires. We strive to balance discipline and  permissiveness. We recognize their skills, sometimes  before they do. Sometimes we don’t see it until long after  they have been using it. We worry. We have fears for them  that they don’t see and don’t want to hear about. We give  them attention; they take some control. We try to stay out  of some parenting traps and dig our way out when we fall  into them. We lift them up when they have fallen. We  recognize their emotional outbursts and help them through  them. We listen to their dreams, realistic and far-fetched. We acknowledge their successes (hopefully as  theirs and not ours) and we feel their pain in their  failures.

It doesn’t end. Parenting continues for life and  beyond. (Even if our child happens to die before we do, we  continue to think of them as our child). Without a doubt,  parenting is the hardest job we will ever have. Few of us  succeed at it without the support of others. It takes  faith in ourselves as parents. It takes faith in them as  individuals. We need to have courage to allow them the  space to become themselves. As Jack Kornberg says in his  book, The Art of Forgiveness, Loving, Kindness and Peace,  “Peace requires us to surrender our illusions of control.  We can love and care for others but we cannot possess our  children, lovers, family or friends. We can assist them,  pray for them, and wish them well, yet in the end their  happiness and suffering depend on their thoughts and  actions, not on our wishes.” And so it becomes very  important for parents to learn what we have control over  and what our children have responsibility for. That quest  defines the short term and long term aspects of each  parent’s journey.