No matter how many little siblings you grew up with, how many kids you babysat over the years, how many child development books you’ve read, you will never truly be prepared for parenthood when it happens.
That’s because being a parent is likely to be one of the most unpredictable experiences of your life. Sure, you can establish routines that make your life easier, you can do your homework by reading the websites and taking parenting classes, you can commiserate with your fellow-parent friends. All of these are fantastic ways to broaden your knowledge of children and help you develop your own parenting style.
But in the end, your child is a little, individual being with a mind of her own, a personality that is his alone. And like a lot of other things in our lives, they are going to throw us for a loop now and then.
In the moment, this can be incredibly frustrating, not to mention humbling and occasionally embarrassing. Take the Blue Light Incident, as we call it in our family. Since at least one of the parties involved would not appreciate it being publicly discussed in detail, let’s just say it involved wanting a blue light bulb badly enough to throw the mother of all tantrums and pee on the floor in Target. We were not prepared for this.
The important point is that knowing it all is not required for good parenting. On the surface, I think all of us parents know this and recognize that we can’t possibly know it all. We have all had experiences where we felt at a loss, maybe even guilty for not handling a situation differently. Still, knowing this in theory doesn’t necessarily keep us from feeling bad about it.
No one likes being stared at by the stranger in the grocery store when your kid is having a meltdown. It feels bad when a relative suggests that your way is the wrong way to raise a child. Perfect families on Facebook and elaborate craft projects on Pinterest can make anyone feel inadequate. But the desire to be a good parent and recognizing where potential for growth exists are two of the most basic elements of good parenting.
Acting on that knowledge can be a little more difficult. We’re busy, we’re tired, we don’t have resources, we don’t know where to start… there are lots of reasons why working on being a better parent can feel challenging. One of the beautiful things about being a parent, though, is that we have daily opportunities to grow. (Depending on the day, the opportunities might be hourly, or even by the minute. Our children just keep on providing them.).
There’s no shame in not knowing it all, and looking for answers that work for your family is good for everyone. We have classes at The Parenting Place that offer simple strategies and skills for parents, as do other organizations in the community. Learning about child development can often be one of the most powerful things we can do as parents, because our expectations for our children at a given time may be what’s off, not our kids’ behavior.
Look, too, for the learning opportunities in little, casual encounters. You are not alone in the parenting journey, and sometimes the experience of a friend or neighbor might be just the bit of information that helps you turn the corner on a particular parenting challenge. Even just seeing someone else handle a difficult child situation well may be enough to tuck away for when you experience something similar.
Our community is full of wise and wonderful individuals who have been a resource for parents and others raising children. Doulas, child care providers, parenting educators, teachers, counselors, nurses, clergy, and others have been helpful to countless families, and I would love to hear about someone who has supported you as you grow as a parent.
I’ll be including some of these people in a future blog series on “Western Colorado Parenting Treasures.” Please leave a comment below if you’d like to share your story or would like us to consider someone for the series; if you’d like to share that information privately, please send a message through the Parenting Place of Western Colorado’s Facebook page.
It sounds cliché, I suppose, but our children really are our future. None of us knows it all, but there are lots of ways to know more. When parents have good support and good information during their parenting journey, we all benefit.
Sarah Johnson is married with one child. She is the coordinator of The Parenting Place and a regular Healthy Mesa County blogger.