I believe that wherever you are from, whatever decisions you make in your life, whomever you choose to partner with, that there is an art to how you live. The first step is recognizing that it’s there. The next step is finding out exactly where it is in the space of your days and how it feels. How can you be in touch with it most of the time? Specifically, the art of parenthood is present the second you hold your child for the first time, whether you give birth, adopt, foster or choose to be a guardian.
It may not feel very natural at the time (it can be overwhelming and very new ground) but it soon seeps through as you start to trust yourself. I find that the beauty of motherhood, for me, exists when I stop trying. When I hit the floor with my toddler and build a tower with our new plastic drinking glasses. When I dance with my eight year old in our living room to our favorite Adele song, because I can still hold her like a baby. Because she still needs it. When I explain things to my 4 yo like why the sun rises and why I can’t run red lights. There is so much in between those moments. Not all of it is as easy or as peaceful. Society and the media lead us down a frustrating path with expectations of how we should parent, what we should look like, how “good” kids should behave. Unrealistically, we believe before we even experience parenting, that we have to breastfeed, we need to sleep train, we have to use timeout, we must praise them, we must potty train our kids early. We should expose our kids to three extracurricular activities at age 4 and teach them their colors at 2 yo. All so that they don’t “fall behind their peers”. Honestly, I can barely make it to one activity on time, with the appropriate outfit and a full water bottle. My firstborn might have known her colors by 3 ish, but with my fourth little, I’m lucky she knows her own name.
So, consider society’s expectations mixed with the distractions of technology/media influences then add our fears and worries. Parenting is challenging. But remember that it is everchanging with the developmental stages of your littles and the growth within yourself. We learn as we grow. Growth allows us to learn. Listening to our children and ourselves can allow us to be better parents. It can allow us to better explore the art of parenting.
Reflecting on my own parenting, I try to teach my children “good manners”. Before we go into a restaurant we take turns reviewing our manners…no yelling, no standing on the chair, say please and thank you, napkin on your lap. What am I thinking? at 2y, 4y, 6y and 8 y, can I really expect them to keep their napkin on their laps? Is that even important? Should they stay in their chairs? yes for brief while. Should they say please and thank you? Yes, but they usually do this anyway. Is yelling appropriate? Not at all, but they are kids. Expecting them to sit still, speak in a whisper with a napkin on their lap is setting yourself up for disappointment. Actually, I now find it quite silly and unnatural. It’s not usually very fancy as we frequent IHOP or Olive Garden. So, now, 8 years after becoming a parent, I realize that is unrealistic. I realize that engaging my children so that they can give me more of their attention as we wait for our meals is a better choice. The napkin can stay on the table and they can just simply use it. Their voices will be heard whether I plan on it or not… and that is OK. My focus needs to be on them and not on what I “need” to teach them according to the silent code of parenting.