Everyone has their own definition of successful parenting and what it means to be a good parent. How we parent also varies.
As a mother, not only did I do my best to love and nurture my children wholeheartedly, as most of us do, but I respected them and their opinion from a very young age and was always open to learning from them. As a young mother, I never pretended to be the expert who had all of the answers. I appreciated all of my roles as teacher, mentor, and also student.
From my eldest son I learned what it means to be authentic and to pursue your passion. From my youngest son I learned the true meaning of resilience and discipline. From my daughter I learned all about conviction and strength of character. From all of them I have learned how to speak my truth and believe in myself. Together they are a daily reminder of unconditional love.
We have all been Forced to Mature
For 10 months now we have been living under the spell of a global pandemic. Relationships are being tested. Parenting looks and feels very different. Although we each have our own COVID story—our own unique experience around this chapter—I do believe in a universal truth that unites us: We have all been forced to mature and revisit what is important to us as we wrap our heads around our new shared reality.
I believe that this pandemic has had a powerful impact on the young adults of today. I believe that they have been called forth to share in the responsibility and even carry some of the weight of this challenging time by supporting their parents and also seeing to their safety. This could simply be my story, nonetheless, I feel very strongly about it.
Lessons from My Children
My children now range from ages 23 to 27, and I continue to learn my greatest lessons from them. Some essential learning took place over the past few weeks as we celebrated the holidays and brought in the New Year together.
Here are just a few of the lessons I would like to share:
- Let joy in. Be playful and have fun. Forget the three-course meals. Take less time with food prep and more time playing games and being together. Order in. Study chess. Rediscover Poker. Scream & shout playing Coup. Get creative with Bananagrams and even silly with Quiplash. Experience how good it feels to laugh, to lead a Conga line around the house—to be joyful. (Over and over, my children continue to reinforce this essential life lesson: Work hard but also play hard.)
- Give yourself permission to receive. Let your children help you and support you, where they can. Give them the opportunity to give back. They are thoughtful, resourceful, and creative so be open to receive their gifts. (The gifts vary with age, but if you give yourself permission to be vulnerable and show your children that you’re human and sometimes need support, they will find their own ways of showing you just how much they care.)
- Follow through. Don’t stop at intentions. Envision, commit, and act. If you’re lonely, then connect. If you’re eager to learn, then sign up for a course. Make the payment. Do it now, not tomorrow. (My children continue to reinforce this essential life lesson: The world is changed by our example not our opinion.)
- Focus on what really matters. Stop being petty in your relationships. It’s hurtful and immature. It makes no sense to hurt the people you care most about. Get curious about the other person’s perspective. (My children continue to remind me of this essential life lesson: Prioritize the “real” issues and seek first to understand, then to be understood.)
Your Children just may be Your Gurus
You may not have to look as far as you think to find your teachers, mentors, and even gurus. Living in this COVID world has already changed so much, so why not use it to redefine and improve your relationship with your children?
Our children have the potential to be our greatest teachers—if we let them. We may have to challenge a belief system or two to make this possible. We may even have to edit or completely rewrite a pre-existing story about how parents and children should think, feel, act, and relate to each other.
The Choice is Ours to Make
Imagine the gold we could potentially find if we were to mine for it within our own homes. Our most difficult relationships may be the hardest ones to mine, but oftentimes they offer the greatest value once you see them as invitations to grow. Challenging circumstances, like COVID, can either consume us in fear or thrust us into growth. The choice is always ours to make.
Even within extreme uncertainty, there are areas of control. And even within the challenges, blessings can be found. We need to nurture the positive moments and reap the benefits of every single lesson and blessing, as small as they may be.
These past few weeks I welcomed my children back into my world and into my truth, and we shared in some truly meaningful conversations. We talked, we laughed, and we even cried together, but most importantly we listened and offered each other support. My children continue to reinforce this essential life lesson: Every family has the potential to become a “sacred family unit” simply by offering each other unconditional love, respect, and kindness.
This is a natural remedy that we can and must develop together as we move through these most challenging times and which will continue to serve us well whatever the future may hold. We need to support, be kind to, and learn from each other NOW more than ever!
And what better place to start than within our own family.