“Instant availability without continuous presence is the best role a mother could play.” – Lotte Bailin
If you’d asked me before I had kids, I never would have said that I wanted to be overprotective or a helicopter parent. The thing is, I underestimated how much worry and anxiety would influence my parenting style. I still don’t consider myself a helicopter, but as I’ve confessed before, I have more helicopterish tendencies than I would like. One of the biggest challenges for me has been teasing out my REAL parenting values and instincts from my fears, worries, and the neverending bits of information that someone or something else told me were true.
I mentioned earlier this year that a lot of my interests lately have converged around the ideas of letting go and trusting more. Those have continued to be my guiding principles in the first months of 2014, as I focus on weeding out pesky intrusive anxieties from what I really believe, and how I really want to live.
Do other people struggle a lot with screening out the noise of parenting information? If you don’t, I truly envy you. From the dangers of plastics, to the 100 different fad diets claiming to cure all ills (because it’s not even enough anymore to have one fad diet in play), to the evils of screen time, to toxic chemicals in mattresses, to the myriad of disorders and syndromes your children might have, to the lack of free play, to the lack of outdoor play, to parents never really being “present” enough, to how to boost your children’s vocabulary and make sure they will turn into readers, it’s all overwhelming and somewhere along that way I turned into a control freak just trying to pin down ONE corner of the things I am “supposed” to be doing as a parent.
Of course, as it became apparent that Miles had some sort of language delay, this only fed into my anxieties more and contributed to me feeling kind of clenched all the time, overwhelmed by the responsibility of parenting and losing the ability to feel its joy. Viewing my children through the lens of “meeting milestones” (especially Miles since he WASN’T meeting some of them), rather than viewing them as whole people growing in their own unique ways, was an insidious poison that strangled my feelings of connection and happiness with my kids.
This ended up being one of the few things that Mike and I would argue about since having kids, in a mostly fight-free marriage: me being controlling and picking on him for doing parenting things wrong. Another type of parent I never wanted to be! But I couldn’t even recognize the error of my ways when this came up time and time again, because the thing was, I was right! Right?
I’m working on letting go, and trusting more. I’ve realized that the only parenting decisions I’ve regretted have been ones where I pushed too hard, worried too much, and suffered under the mad illusion that I could “make” my children do what I wanted them to do. It’s a complicated process, untangling myself from this web of mistrust and anxiety and confusion, but every little bit that I manage to get unstuck is a relief to me and to the whole family. I am going to be writing about some concrete examples of changes I’m making with the series titles “Trustful Parenting Experiments” so stayed tuned for that!