So when I saw she’d written a parenting manifesto, I couldn’t wait to read it and share it. It’s an inspiring piece, tying her work on vulnerability together with her insights as a mother. My colleague Carolyn shares the way it moved her to be more attentive and open with her daughter. I certainly have been paying more attention to how I relate to my daughters since reading this wonderful essay.
More than that, I’ve been thinking about what it means to have a parenting manifesto, a code to live by as a mom or dad.
What is a manifesto, anyway?
According to dictionary.com, manifesto means “a public declaration of intentions, opinions, objectives, or motives“. I can’t help but think of Martin Luther nailing his 99 theses to the church door. There’s something powerful in making a public declaration of your beliefs and intentions about parenting.
Because I love Brene Brown, I immediately wanted to dive in to her manifesto and adopt it. This is How To Do Parenting Right, I thought. Brene Brown is a genius. She’ll know what to do.
Her manifesto is good. It’s full of love and courage and vulnerability, just as you’d expect. It’s well-written and clear. But as I read it, I became aware of something else: this is good, but it’s not mine. I can’t use it to tell me what to do as a mom. It won’t be the Magic 8 Ball that solves all my parenting problems.
In fact, as I read it a second time, I realized she says as much in the opening of her essay. Brown writes:
Most of us would love a color-coded parenting hand-book that answers all of our unanswerable questions, comes with guarantees, and minimizes our vulnerability. We want to know that if we follow certain rules or adhere to the method espoused by a certain parenting expert, our children will sleep through the night, be happy, make friends, achieve professional success, and stay safe. The uncertainty of parenting can bring up feelings in us that range from frustration to terror.
While she goes on to share some excellent advice from Toni Morrison, the real gem here isn’t in what she says but how she says it. Brown is modeling a brave, loving vision of parenting. And she’s inspiring me to do the same.
What I need, I realized, isn’t her parenting manifesto. It’s my own. That’s what each of us could use: our own clear, passionate statement of intentions about our parenting. A short simple text that captures the best of what you aim to be for and with your children.
What should a parenting manifesto include? A declaration of love as the ground of your relationship, I think. Some sense of how you’ll get through hard times together, and how you’ll celebrate the good things. Your goals as a parent, in terms of what you want to give your kids and how. Brown talks about how she’ll treat herself, and I think that’s important too.
These are some rough ideas, not a recipe. Your parenting manifesto should be your own, a collection of ideas and statements that reflect what matters to you as a parent.
You are loved, more than I will ever be able to express.
But that won’t stop my striving, every day, to express love for you. I’ll do it through words, but more through actions. You can see my love in the games of chess we play before dinner and the laundry I fold.
I will do what I can to give you safety, joy & health in all aspects of your life.
I will not show these embarrassing childhood photos at your wedding. I promise.
You will always have a bedtime story if you want one. Also a home, with healthy food and warmth and music and clean clothes.
I will put on my own oxygen mask first. I will take care of my own needs for safety, joy and health so that I can be there to support you.
Together we will raise you up. I want you to have a sense of agency in your childhood, but to be secure in the knowledge that responsibility for our choices rests on my shoulders.
I will say YES as often as I can, and I will have the strength to say “no” to things you want that are not, in my estimation, a good idea.
I will strive to see you as a full person, independent from my hopes and dreams for you.
I will strive to hear you when you speak to me, and to be open to hearing anything you have to say.
You won’t have a perfect childhood. You’ll meet challenges you feel you can’t face, and bad days that seem like they will never end. But you won’t be alone. I’ll be your ally through every step of this process, for all of my life.
What’s your parenting manifesto? Will you share it with the world? With your kids?