Life as a parent can be a truly humbling experience; I assumed I arrived in adulthood long before giving birth to my daughter at 36 years old. However, this was wishful thinking. The past few years as a parent revealed numerous fault lines in my lifestyle that needed attention. Without the mirror of parenthood, I doubt I would have taken stock in such a profound, meticulous way.
Over the years I’ve discovered becoming a parent does not mean you have arrived — it means your journey has just begun. I’ve discovered that if one remains available and willing to learn and grow, parenting can be a rewarding endeavor.
As I review my parenting style of the past years, I see tremendous growth on numerous levels. The passing years have tested my fortitude beyond measure; my beliefs were disputed, my perspective dissected, and my faith strengthened. Parenting gives us the opportunity to rise above and beyond our narrow expectations. Sometimes it forces us to reject unpalatable views conditioned by long-held traditions. Nevertheless, parenting gives us the opportunity to expand and to grow if we allow ourselves to have an open mind. Once I became a parent, I became a responsible adult. Here are a few lessons I’ve learned over the years.
How I Became an Adult While Raising a Child
There is no such thing as a perfect parent. So just be a real one.
– Sue Atkins
Stand for something
Having a child can awaken one’s sense of responsibility in a myriad of ways. My daughter fell seriously ill after years of bullying in the public school system. This untenable situation forced me to take a stand on principle: I decided to enroll her in an online home school program. Becoming a homeschooling parent was a major turning point. It’s important to support your children because it strengthens that extraordinary bond. Start early because the trust earned will benefit you in the teen years.
Children require nurturing from the inside out. In order to give them what they need, you must have an unwavering sense of self-worth. Kids are little saplings that require time and investment in order to grow and develop. Giving security and safety are important physically, but children need to feel secure and safe from deep inside first. This means giving love and support, but it also means disciplining with a firm hand when needed.
Match words with actions
Children listen to our words, but they are more interested in our actions. Becoming a parent gives one sufficient opportunity to fine-tune our lives in this area. It’s often easier to dictate from above when it comes to our children because we often think we know better. Fortunately, I discovered it’s always best to strike a balance between discipline and listening. I’ve learned to be clear and thoughtful with my words and to mirror the same with my actions. This is an ongoing pursuit and requires persistence and vigilance. If I fall off the beaten track, my daughter is the first to remind me.
Sometimes life can move at warp speed, making it hard to remain engaged with our children. The necessities of living a modern life can be distracting. In a busy household we must be engaged because we can lose important bonding time with our children. As a homeschooling parent, I am constantly interacting with my child. While conversing with her, I try to answer any or all of her questions, and when the answers aren’t available, I say so. It is important to meet and establish a connection with their friends and learn their likes and dislikes as they change and grow. Sit with them, watch their TV shows and YouTube videos, and listen to their music, even if it’s difficult to understand. Show your interest and concern, but at the same time do not overwhelm or nag them.
The about parenting rules is there aren’t any. That’s what makes it so difficult.
– Ewan McGregor
Learning flexibility in parenting is a must. This isn’t easy to do because as we age, our perspectives tend to calcify. Embracing flexibility is the most important lesson in my parenting life. The first and most important step was seeing my daughter as an individual who has her own mind and thoughts. This was incredibly difficult as she transitioned to teenage-hood. However, by allowing her to use her voice and to feel its inherent power, l sent her a message of trust and respect. Today, we are closer than ever. I’ve learned that allowing a child to shine, without imprinting too many expectations or forcing my own beliefs and mindset on them, is a tremendously gratifying endeavor.
Be honest about shortcomings
We all make mistakes; we all fall down. Sometimes, as parents, we feel it’s more important to show strength. However, I found that showing vulnerability isn’t always negative; there were times when I let my guard down and was rewarded with a heartfelt embrace. Being honest about our shortcomings as parents does not make us appear fragile in the eyes of our children; in fact, it opens the door for deeper interaction and connection. In those moments when I felt most alone, my daughter often gave me guidance from her straightforward perspective. As a result, situations made complicated by my convoluted, adult thinking were often washed away.
Growing up together
In essence, I’ve grown and matured in meaningful ways as a parent. We all must find our way to the right path when parenting. Nowadays, I have a deep veneration for my mother and her efforts to raise me. I wasn’t an easy child, but she did her best. In the end, we are all on one colossal learning curve as parents. Parenting is complex, yet I was willing to finally accept responsibility to change and improve for my child’s sake. As a result, I am a better person because of it — and I can safely say that nothing prepares one for a journey like this.