If we were to take all the best advice from all the parents in the world, all we would have is just that – advice. We wouldn’t have better kids. We wouldn’t have fool proof parenting techniques. We wouldn’t even have a better understanding of things. What works for one family, one parent, one child – doesn’t work on another. But we as parents are desperate. So desperate. Not to have the best children, but to measure up – to the other parents who appear to know what they are doing.
We seek random approval from random strangers to make ourselves feel better. And in an attempt to do so – we downgrade and judge others.
Everyone does it. I do it. You do it. In a lame attempt to feel better about ourselves, we compare ourselves to others to see how we measure up, and even judge others, no matter how silently to somehow make ourselves feel better. We hold ourselves up against others to see how well we compare, and in doing so, we silently judge those who might not measure up.
The cold honest truth about this parenting gig, is that no one knows what they are doing. No one.
Five years ago, after years of wild up and down, chaotic, franticness – I somehow ended up being the ‘parent’ of a child with needs I had no idea how to deal with. In fact, no one knew how to deal with him. But everyone had the answers. Advice. Reasons. The unsolicited advice was put to good use, but after months of trying every seemingly so called “Fool proof plan” we were no further ahead than when we started.
Which is when I realized something I wish I had realized years ago: No one, not one single person, no matter how well off they are – knows what they are doing.
Over the past few years I have taken advice, listened to people, held myself up to see if I measured up, and even judged. I have judged other parents to make MYSELF feel better about my parenting skills, or lack thereof. Why? Because this is the only thing we humans know how to do. We judge – to feel better. We judge – to look better.
We put our kids aside, and try and measure up as a parent, when really – being a parent is all about being downgraded, run over, sleepless nights, and hopeless days – in HOPES that there is a better future for the small things we call children. The very things we live for, that get us up in the morning, that wake us up at night – the things that we should be standing up for, laying our egos aside for, and boosting confidence in, ironically – are the very things that we are using to boost our own egos.
No one said this parenting thing would be easy. No one said we would have all the answers, all the time. No one even said we would know what we are doing 10% of the time. Yet somehow, we have landed ourselves here – in this situation, with small people looking to us, or at us – for answers. And what are we going to offer them?
This morning I picked up the phone, after three rings there was an answer, and a few moments later I was talking to a seemingly empty receiver. Yet I knew he was there because I heard small reminders: Small breaths, sniffs, and the occasional dropping of the phone.
He turns ten today. In a day – he went from single digits, to double. From nine, to ten. From a child, to a boy. Over the past five years, I have parented him to the best of my abilities. I have done what I think is best, and failed – over and over, again and again. I am not celebrating his birthday with him, but instead am thousands of miles away. I know he’s in good hands. Yet at the same time, I know I am being judged – silently, or not.
But today – unlike five years ago, I am ok with that.
I am putting together the advice that works, and scraping the rest. I don’t care who uses me as an example of what not to be, or how not to act. I don’t mind how many other parents are judging me to make themselves feel better. I know I am trying my best. Doing my best. And hoping for the best.
And somehow, against all odds – things might just turn out.
Not because I knew what I was doing, or because I followed the right advice, or because I compared myself against the world’s greatest parents, but because I did what the rest of worlds parents are doing – I am trying my hardest. Doing what I think is best. Failing, again and again – but getting up. And pushing on.
Because the people who matter most, the ones who mean the most – are not the ones who are judging, rather they are the ones riding in the trenches with me. They are on the same road as I am – they are turning a year older, and learning with each year that I don’t know what is best. And maybe one day – if he reads this he will understand. I’ve tried my best. I will try my best. I will fail.
You won’t succeed at everything – but that shouldn’t stop you from trying. You won’t be liked by everyone, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be nice. You won’t slide through life easy – but that doesn’t mean there won’t be good times. I won’t try telling you that I know best, because I don’t. But I will try and guide you away from the obstacles in life that I have found and wish for you to avoid. It won’t be easy, it might not always be worth it, but one day – you too will find that reason.
That reason that gets you up in the morning. That reason that keeps you going, even when things are hard. That reason. No matter what it is, will get you through the hard times, and be there during the good.
Happy Birthday buddy – I know this year holds big things, just like every other year. Don’t let anyone, hold you back.