The toughest job

The toughest job

We parent as well as we were parented.  That can be a comforting or frightening statement…depending on our history.  I remember when I first gave birth, I was determined to do this thing “right”.  This is how I had been trained to approach everything for 20 years.  Certainly, this task – the most important one I’d ever tackle – demanded my best.   Then, to make things really interesting, my little one was diagnosed with a chronic illness for which there was no cure.

Looking back on my parenting path, I see a developmental journey:  Stage one was the thirst for knowledge.  I had been essentially an only child.  I had never babysat a child, never changed a diaper.  To say I was ‘green’ would have been an understatement.  But I was diligent and committed.  I knew that there was much from my history that I did not want to repeat so I read the books, listened to the radio shows and subscribed to the magazines.  Stage two was about behavior.  I was raised in a culture that valued presentation and good behavior and while I was determined not to use the same punishments, I was still invested in similar outcomes.  Except…this little girl was not at all interested in conforming as I had been.  She marched to the beat of her own drum.  Stage three was bedlam.  My well crafted systems were not working.  My home environment changed and my beloved was dancing at the edge of dangerous canyons.  I was completely undone.  Stage four found me in complete retreat.  I was forced to go back to the drawing board to figure out what my true parenting goals were and how I was going to accomplish them.  From a faith perspective, I began to realize that while it was easy to focus on my daughter as ‘the problem’, God’s spotlight was squarely on me…what was being unearthed within me by her refusal to fall in step with my beat?  Slowly, my focus changed as I entered stage five.  From behavior to relationship.  From nagging to introspection – an awareness of what each conflict was meant to teach me.  Not that I abdicated my responsibility as a parent.  I was still the authority but I streamlined those functions and attempted to spend more time on personal growth and pursuing intimate connection with her.  I am forever grateful that my final parenting stage (six) was an imperfect attempt at unconditional love.  I solidified my understanding of who she was as a person…what she was responsible for (which I was not) and what I was truly responsible for as her mom.  Unfortunately, I had just crested this summit when she disappeared.

Maybe you recognize yourself somewhere in these stages.  It’s helpful sometimes to know that you’re on a developmental journey, that this will get better.  This isn’t a researched and validated developmental theory but hopefully, it is still helpful in reassuring you that this is normal – whatever your “this” is.  That there is a progression here.  Don’t get me wrong.  It didn’t play out in the linear way I’ve presented here.  It was more like a circuitous roller-coaster ride that cycled in and out of the stages in no particular order. Once again, if that is how you’re feeling, you’re not alone.

I have a passion for coming along-side parents on their journey.  I’m not a “drop your kid off and I’ll fix them” therapist.  In my view, it begins and ends with parents – if for no other reason than we have the ultimate responsibility and authority to respond to whatever is happening with the child.  We are the leaders in this equation.  Our children give us an opportunity to grow as people in a way no other interaction can and I love helping my clients harness the occasion.  As parents flourish, children naturally improve.  This only happens however when parents feel safe.  Safe to vent, cry, blame, speak the truth of what they are actually thinking and feeling without judgment.  The last thing we need is someone to make us feel like a failure.  What is needed is empathy, encouragement and hope.  A place where our ugly is held and our pain is validated.  Where root causes are unearthed and processed so that we move in a different direction.  That is what I do with my clients so if you’re looking for a coworker on this – the toughest job of all; give us a call.  The rewards in stage six are well worth the journey!

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