Before I became a parent, not yet pregnant with my oldest daughter, my husband and I would dream of what type of parents we wanted to be. These were long conversations (like you have before children) over coffee or wine, with lofty plans tossed onto pages of a pretty journal, writing it all in one place to show our dedication and commitment to this new thing called parenthood.
Spin us ten years forward and here we are. Gold-leafed journal pages of lofty ideals are not a daily reality. The core beliefs contained in those writings remain the deep undergirding of big parenting decisions and family goals. But, the weekly grind of homework and bath/shower schedules, mood swings, and tantrums can soften those strong footings... leaving me sometimes feeling a bit off course.
In lunch conversations and cocktail parties, I hear all the labels and buzz words like Tiger moms or Helicopter parents or the newer throwback, free-range parenting style. It all feels like a bad pop quiz from a teen magazine. I often find labels exclusionary and typically unhelpful. Simple classifications put neat bows on situations and people which are far more complicated and dynamic.
But maybe, by spending a post (or five minutes in your case) thinking about what we do not want to be as parents, we might be able to go more boldly, more intentionally, in the right direction?
Do you know in your gut that your child is strong but needs pushed to fulfill his/her full potential? Are you strict to keep him/her on schedules for school and sports and extra curriculars, making sure that he/she accomplished all that they can?
You have a hint of a Tiger Mom to your style.
Do you find yourself concerned about your child's well being? And because of this worry, insert yourself into situations at school or with friends to make sure your child is safe or seen in the best light?
You're breaking into Helicopter parenting.
Do you think that kids should be kids and be able to explore the world? Do you reference your own childhood stories of independent trips to the store or late nights with friends as the way you want to your young children to experience life?
Label yourself a free-range.
Of course, there are limitless possibilities for other "types" and characteristics that we as parents float in and out of as our children age and we learn and grow.
I've been thinking a lot about the people our three children are becoming and what influence I have in that process. I'd like to think of myself as a caring and attentive parent, ready to make the world magical and beautiful, especially when it seems anything but that to my children.
But, as we enter adolescence with our oldest, and peers and other influences play a larger role, I realize more and more that I cannot prescribe or create the world for my children (I know, silly that I thought I could). My job is to show them their own unstoppable courage and beauty, get them to trust in it repeatedly, and make the little choices that lead to larger choices that will fit in line with the incredible people God created them to be.
I also need to keep them hydrated and hold them accountable and a few other tasks along the way.
From fairy tale dreams to Cosmo labels, I'm not sure what my style is, but I do know that it deserves further reflection and continued development. And I will give it so because I get to be the mother of three amazing people, and they deserve nothing less.
Are you a parent? If so, how would you describe your parenting style? Could you categorize the style of your parents?
PS. While you think, let me toss you one of my favorite reflections from Thomas Merton that speaks to me on parenting:
“For me to be a saint means to be myself. Therefore the problem of sanctity and salvation is in fact the problem of finding out who I am and of discovering my true self.”