In Support of Relationship-based Parenting
Well, hello there once again! Yes, I have finally decided to jump back into the blogging world. Can not promise for how long this time, but I have been feeling the need to explore some things in a bit more depth than a Facebook status update allows. I find that writing helps me sort through what is going on in my head and I do appreciate that blogging allows me to more fully formulate and expand on those thoughts.
Jason has just turned 18 (yes, really!) and I am finding that I am falling into that cliche of looking back on our lives together and seeing how far we have come. How I have evolved as a parent. How he has evolved as a person. How those oh so many leaps of faith I took over the years have played out.
I am happy to say that my worries over the years were very much misplaced and my leaps of faith have very much paid off. I absolutely adore the person that Jason has grown into as much as I adored the child that he was. And best yet, I love the relationship that we have.
Jason always was a very intense kid. High-energy. Strong-willed. Exhausting at times. Coupled with my personality, which tends to be non-confrontational and not overly "rules" oriented, there have definitely been times when I worried that I was not "giving him the structure" he needed. Of course there is tons of advice out there exhorting you to "be your child's parent, not their friend" and how to make your child "accountable" but those approaches never felt "real" to me, but rather more like a "parenting persona" I put on in an attempt to be a "good parent."
Luckily I did get some support for my more relaxed parenting style, first from the attachment parenting community where learned that it was ok to trust and honor my own instincts, even when they went against the traditional mainstream norms. And then in the unschooling community, although even there I often found that the advice was very black and white when I have a hard time living my life in black and white terms...I needed to learn to have more faith in myself and trust myself and the process more.
In hindsight I can see that my choices were fundamentally made out of a desire to better understand my kids and to truly try to find things that worked for all of us. I chose to work under the assumption that my kids were basically good kids who wanted to do the right thing. I honestly did not like the feeling of having a "battle of wills" with my children and found that it worked better for me to do what I could to avoid them.
In the younger years, this often meant "giving in" but I found that as my kids got older, it shifted to meaning more discussion, listening and yes, negotiation. And now I can say that it has lead to a relationship with my teenagers I truly enjoy where I do think they feel that I am "on their side" even if I can not always say "yes" or always let them do what they want.
In some ways it seems counterintuitive, that giving in or backing off when my kids were younger could lead to teens who are more open to my guidance and suggestions, but that has been my experience. The battles just never seemed worth it if it came at the expense of my relationship with my kids. The biggest benefit I experienced from making these types of choices is that, as I got more comfortable in my parenting, I became more comfortable following what felt right in my heart. I have found that the more that I act counter to who I truly am, the more disconnect and struggle I have, so keeping my actions aligned with my truth, especially in regards to my children, is pretty crucial.
What I want to do by writing here is to give support to parents who are like me and who might be questioning their judgement when their hearts tell them to do something other than what family, friends or "common wisdom" in our society says that they should. Who just are not organized enough to implement half of what is recommended. Who worry that each and every decision they make now will have long term repercussions in their children's lives (spoiler: it doesn't). Who don't always want to worry so much about "being the parent" but rather just want to live with their children with all the messiness and uncertainty that involves.
It has honestly come as a relief to realize that while yes, I have a lot of influence over my children, not everything is solely up to me and that the important lessons I wanted them to learn came naturally as part of us living our lives together. That it is ok to trust the process. That it is ok to trust myself. That often there are no right answers, just options. And that, also, is ok.