A visit to the beach quickly invites me into a state of rest. There's something about the sound of the waves, the sunshine, the breeze that make the stresses of life less heavy on my mind. I stare at the vastness of the horizon and marvel at the unique part I play on this Earth while also pondering my insignificance. Parenting evokes the same feelings for me. Some days I wake with confidence that I am molding my children's minds and hearts to live a life of destiny and purpose. Other days I am pretty sure the only thing I have succeeded at is moving poop from one location to another.
I would say that I embarked on my parenting journey with extreme optimism, but I am realizing that my hope for a positive outcome was rooted in unrealistic expectations. Sadly, when our experience doesn't match our expectation, disappointment usually creeps in and steals our joy. I missed out on moments of joy and gratitude in my daughter's first year, because nothing seemed to come easily or as planned, and so I assumed that something was wrong with me. I have come to realize that there is no perfect way to parent a child. No exact methodology that will make your life easy or seamless or get your baby to sleep 12 hours or potty-train your toddler with no accidents. I do think there are more effective ways to encourage and correct our children, but even those methods vary according to your child's temperament and ability.
Society seems to focus on measuring parental success in areas that have little to do with the long-term physical, emotional, and spiritual health of our children. People like to ask questions about whether your baby is a good sleeper, or eats all his veggies, or whether he happily stays with the babysitter when you leave. When you can't answer these questions every time with a resounding "yes", it's easy to feel like you are failing. I think a far better measurement of our effectiveness as parents would involve questions like: Did my child feel loved and understood today? Did I demonstrate patience and kindness? Did I give my child opportunities to learn and practice a new skill?
I work hard to help my daughter develop good sleep habits, get her recommended dose of veggies, and reassure her of my love when I leave, but her response on any given day doesn't necessarily reflect on my overall ability as a parent. Parenting is a lengthy process, and I've decided to give myself grace for learning. My goal is to grow in confidence and kindness daily so that I respond with a healthy attitude no matter how my child acts in the moment. I want to provide ample room for my children to make mistakes and learn, and so I first extend grace to myself to make forward progress each day while silencing the pressure to get things perfect. Perfect parents and perfect children don't exist. If you are a parent of a child with special needs or a language delay/disability, it's easy to focus on what your child can't do rather than focusing on those daily steps in the right direction that invite your child into his potential. As a speech-language pathologist, I help families implement strategies and changes that promote progress and encourage everyone in the process. Please email me if I can help you and your family or visit my SERVICES page for more information.