Plan B Parenting
In no other area of my life have I found myself as deeply vulnerable than as a parent. And that's why -- when my daughter was very young -- if you judged my parenting, I would jump down your throat. Then I would go home and cry and Google parenting websites and hold myself accountable for my daughter's milestone progress, her sleep habits, my mood, her nutrition and the state of foreign wars.
I tried to imagine, in the midst of my Googling, what other role one could undertake in which one received absolutely no training and yet was so very important. You don't get to be a general just for getting pregnant. You don't get to run companies because you adopted. In fact, you would never get so much absolute power and responsibility for anyone or anything with so little preparation mentally, physically, psychologically, financially, or spiritually.
Just parenting. WHEE!
In her chapter on parenting, Dr. Brown writes:
Our need for certainty in an endeavor as uncertain as raising children makes explicit "how-to-parent" strategies both seductive and dangerous. I say "dangerous" because certainty often breeds absolutes, interolerance, and judgment. That's why parents are so critical of one another -- we latch on to a method or approach and very quickly our way becomes the way. When we obsess over our parenting choices to the extent that most of us do, and then we see someone else making different choices, we often perceive that difference as direct criticism of how we are parenting. - p. 215
Those words struck home because it helped me understand myself as a mother -- particularly a younger mother -- and promise myself to do better. I do not look at people driving pick-ups and think they are judging my Sebring. I do not look at doctors and think they are judging me for being a writer and editor. I do not look at people who have long hair and think they are judging me for having short hair. I mean, there are some other instances where the judgy gets kicked up -- eating habits spring to mind, as do spending habits -- but parenting, yeah, everyone judges each other in the game of parenting at some point. You can work on it, but it creeps in. And it is precisely because of the fear Dr. Brown points to -- we're afraid we're doing it wrong, because doing it wrong might mean we're not doing our best by our sons and daughters and that is, in my life experience, the ultimate vulnerability. However, if we don't learn to face that vulnerability and admit we're not perfect, we might make life even harder for our kids.
This parenting gig is hard.
I loved Dr. Brown's example of how she showed her daughter, Ellen, her vulnerability by admitting she felt bad being left off a publicity poster -- a situation I'm sure, as bloggers, we can all appreciate. When you put forth your best work, you want to be on the damn poster, am I right? This sort of vulnerability is hard for me, but it's something I've been trying to call up for my eight-year-old daughter as I work on my personal writing projects. She was too young to see my vulnerability during the Sleep Is for the Weak publishing process, but she's seeing me cry at rejection and struggle with rewrites and pull myself back up into the chair with my current projects. It is somehow easier for me to admit my flaws when I think it might help her deal with hers, and this is the silver lining of parenting. There are so many hard times, but there are also moments in which you realize your child taught you to forgive yourself, and that's what Dr. Brown is talking about in this chapter. Sometimes you see the light bulb turn on in your child's eyes when she realizes you just got kicked and you're going to double-down and go for it again anyway:
So, hope is a combination of setting goals, having the tenacity and perseverance to pursue them, and believing in our own abilities. Hope is Plan B. - p. 240
I love that idea so much. Hope is Plan B. Plan A is having everything just go right without much effort. But hope is Plan B -- so there is always a Plan B. If I can pass that along to my daughter, I will be happy with my parenting. I can't protect her from everything that will hurt her in the world, but if I can teach her to cope and to hope, I will have done my job.
How do you show your vulnerability with your kids? Do you have any advice for teaching kids to cope and hope?