"Life has no meaning.
Each of us has meaning and we bring it to life.
It is a waste to be asking the question
when you are the answer."
Quite some time ago I read two articles that I rather enjoyed. But there was a line in each of them that jumped out at me. Here they are, in no particular order:
"But then, none of us have any idea what we’re doing" and "but anyone that implies that they have it figured out is either drunk or lying (or both), so don't be too hard on yourself."
Both articles are about parenting. Overall, I found both articles compelling in their own way (click on either quote to read them in full). I agreed with many points in each (although one was a little too "doomsday" for my personal taste). But I got to thinking, "Hey! I do have an idea of what I'm doing and I feel like I *have* figured some important things out! (and I don't think I'm drunk either). So I'm going to give it a shot and lay it all out here - everything that I've got figured out.
This is the #1 most important thing that I figured out - that NO ONE can give me "The Answers" to all the tough questions that come up in life and in parenting. I have to figure it out myself (with the help of some really important people - my husband and kids for instance!) This is a really tough lesson to learn in our culture. We are raised in a culture and a school system that puts a very high value on doing things the "right" way, and often there is only a very narrow definition of what that might be. For someone like me, who really excelled in this system, it is very difficult to let go of the idea that there isn't some "expert", system, or handbook "out there" that will lead to the promise-land of perfect parenting. I suspect that it's difficult for many people, not just the ones who excelled, because we've been conditioned to expect that there are "right answers" to all problems.
Once you realize that you are kind of "on your own" it's important to figure out some other BIG things. Like what is going to guide you. Peace was my first big guidepost. It was something that I sought and wanted to cultivate in my life. Right on Peace's heels came kindness, compassion, and love. Holding these three tight keeps Peace close by too.
So, I know that no one can give me the answers AND I know what values I want to permeate my life. Sounds pretty simple. But we all know that parenting isn't simple - if it was statements like those above wouldn't ring true for so many people. Some of you may shaking your heads now, thinking, "Man, I thought she was going to give me the ANSWER! She tricked me with that title!" It's true, I don't have the answer to how to make kids do what we want them to do, or to ensure that they grow up to be happy and successful. But I think that those "goals" are missing the mark, so stick around, I promise it's worth it.
With my #1 and my Big 3 + Peace in place, here's what I've got figured out:
1) That "I don't know" is a perfectly acceptable thing to say in almost any situation. (Just saying this alone often opens the door to new ideas and possibilities from multiple people. Believing we always have the right answer actually closes a lot of opportunities for growth, new ideas, and input from others down.)
2) That if I don't know what to do, then WAITING is a perfect thing to do.
3) That admitting that I was wrong is more than ok - it's healthy for my kids to hear and see that even their beloved mama isn't perfect. Then they know it's ok when they make mistakes too.
4) That my kids learn to apologize when I apologize to them.
5) That although Peace is what I strive for in my life, that doesn't mean my life will always be Peaceful - and that's ok too.
6) That learning, growing, and changing is part of life - whether you are a child or a "grown-up". (Being an adult doesn't mean we know everything. Actually, the best grown ups are the ones who are learning the most from the kids. Kids know all the good stuff - play, laugh, have fun learning!)
7) That changing your mind may actually be the most sensible thing to do. (Another thing that kids are really good at. My son can say "no" and 30 seconds later change his mind - no stigma attached to the decision at all.)
8) That the choppy waters are actually part of The Flow. It's better to put on my life preserver and ride it out than try to fight my way back upstream to the calmer waters - especially when there is a tranquil pool waiting for me just downstream if I would let go.
9) That my parenting path is actually about me, not my kids. So I better get my sh*t together to clear the way for them.
10) When everyone's freaking out and Peaceful is the LAST word you would use to describe the scene, taking deep breaths (sometimes with a mantra that involves loving words), admitting, "I don't know what to do" (while keeping everyone safe if that needs to be done), waiting for the most intense waves of emotions to pass through and over everyone, then reconnecting physically and by talking (when all parties are ready) is the best thing I can do.
Because we all know that no one is perfect. So why would a PARENT be any different? Stop holding yourself up to impossible expectations. Love who you are and know what your strengths are. Use them. Know what your weaknesses are too, so you can work on them, find other people to complement them, and you can communicate honestly about them. And stop blaming "the system" for what you're unhappy about. DO SOMETHING if you're not satisfied with the way things are. If you and your kids aren't feeling connected, find ways to fix it. No one can tell you what's the best way for your relationship.
That's it. My recipe for my life. I bet yours is a little different but that we share a lot of the same ingredients. Maybe mine has some vodka or sangria in it and tomorrow I'll wake up and realize that I really am drunk. ;-)
At the center of your being you have the answer; you know who you are and you know what you want.
- Lao Tzu
Wife, mom, information and peace seeker.