There are certain truths about life — about people, about parenting — that we all know to be true, and yet they’re hard to admit to ourselves. As a whole, we tend to indulge in magical thinking or various forms of denial, and we’re so quick to look for shortcuts and easy answers for impossible questions.
Sometimes we just have to wake up and face reality.
Like these three inconvenient truths of parenting, for instance:
1. If we want good kids, we have to be good people.
We expend so much energy reading experts and researching the “How To’s” of parenting (how to teach compassion, how to raise responsible kids … ) yet the only thing we need to know is this:
To teach compassion, we have to be compassionate.
To teach respect and manners, we have to show our kids respect and manners.
To teach kids how to behave, or manage their emotions, or live happy lives, or be more patient, we have to embody those things ourselves.
It’s the simplest concept in the world, yet the most difficult thing for us to do. That’s because it requires deep self-reflection and, in many ways, unlearning hardwired patterns established in our own childhoods. It requires us to be well-adjusted grown-ups, which is easier said than done. It also requires us to take more responsibility for our children’s misbehavior than we might feel comfortable taking. (Read 7 Steps to Becoming a Well-Behaved Parent for more insight into the “be the person you want your child to become” approach to parenting.)
Of course we won’t be perfect; we’re only human. So perhaps we shouldn’t expect our kids to be perfect, either. We’re all just trying to do our best.
2. We cannot have it all.
Life — including parenting — requires compromises, sacrificing, and prioritizing. If we take into account all of the headlines and Google searches and self-help books on HAVING IT ALL, our society has a hard time accepting this as truth. We spend an awful amount of time grasping for magical solutions and dreaming up “If Only” wishes, rather than settling into the reality of our situations.
Here’s reality: So much of life is cyclical, seasonal, temporary. You’ll have to make hard choices and accept that you’ll never get to a place of perpetual happiness and balance that lasts for the rest of your life, forever and ever amen. Also, if you’re trying to do everything at the same time, you’re probably not doing anything well.
There is no blueprint for “Having It All,” but we can define our goals and design a life that works for now. Because it’s only for now.
3. Our children are individual people with individual stories and journeys, of which we have very little control.
We are not our children. They’ll have their own issues to work through, challenges to learn from, and interests to pursue. We can have all of these ideas and wishes for who we want them to be, but they already have individual personalities and inner workings.
We can help guide them and trust that they’ll make smart choices, but they aren’t our choices to make.
And perhaps this is the most inconvenient truth of all: Life is impermanent. There’s no way to stop or slow time, no matter how much bargaining or complaining or heel-digging we do. It will go fast — we know this. Perhaps all we can do is to accept our children for who they are, accept ourselves as flawed parents, and accept the temporary compromises and choices we have to make in each season of our lives.More On