At some point I felt confident. I knew the consequences I was dishing out to my child made sense. My intentions are the same every time. I want my kids to learn. I want them to grow from their decisions, no matter what they are. I want them to have a clear understanding of what works and what doesn’t work. Isn’t that what we all want?
Yet I keep finding myself in these moments, feeling unsure of my convictions, and remembering just how challenging this gig is.
My daughter is officially a teenager. Since her birth, I’ve dreaded this time of her life. “Stay little,” I’ve pleaded. “Stop growing,” I’ve demanded. Neither children obey my commands.
My girl is months away from being taller than me. Hell, it could even be tomorrow. I just know it’s close. Dangerously close. She is already more confident than I was at her age. More self-aware, self-assured, self-loving. She is kind, respectful, and sensitive, yet with a thicker skin she’s developed for protection after a few experiences encouraged her to grow it.
Overall, she’s well rounded and a person I genuinely enjoy being around. I am proud to be her mother.
So what’s my issue?
The mood swings, the attitude, the typical adolescent poor decisions, the uncertainty of my creating long term damage with my responses to them. My own personal desire to want to get it right the first time…you know, fear. Fear that I’ll say something to hurt her. Fear that she’ll feel neglected or rejected. Fear that I won’t be able to combat her natural inclination to feel like she’s not good enough…despite intellectually knowing I can’t actually do that.
So when I do upset her and I know how angry she is at me, I have to take a big step back and look at myself and my own insecurities as a parent. I look at my desire to create the mother/daughter bond I didn’t have. I look at my interest in wanting her to trust me like I do my own father. I want her to want to spend time with me and ask for my help. And in that moment, when she wants nothing to do with me, I have to remember that I’m making decisions to support all of those things, even if they look like they will push her away.
The biggest thing I’ve learned in the past year with my children is that as they grow and my desire to stay connected to them increases, my approach has had to change as well. I found myself hitting a wall with my daughter and she didn’t want to open up with me. I realized that if I wanted her to let me in, I’d have to do the same. I told her about my fears of her aging. I told her I knew I had no control over her and how letting go of the small belief that I do is a big piece for me to accept. I told her how the only way we were going to comfortably get through the next few years is for her to not shut me out and for me to trust that she will make decisions that will support her instead of hurt her…and that in the end, everything is going to be okay.
And in these moments of questioning myself, I find that my insecurity always comes back to the same concern…my own wanting to be more than enough for them. I think we refer to this as the big ass circle of truth. I may have just made that up, but hopefully you see where I’m going with this. I fear for her what I’ve felt myself; feeling like I am good enough. I want to protect her from what it’s taken me my lifetime to work through and understand. And all I can do is trust myself to offer the best of what I’ve got.
In my circle of truth I see it. I know that what I’m creating is to help us both. When I trust myself, I teach my kids to trust themselves. When I am honest about my fears and flaws, they are more open to share their own. If I allow myself to be authentic and true to myself, they will observe this and ideally be inspired to do the same, on their terms, in their timing.
This practice of trusting is ongoing. For everyone. I know that. But when it comes to parenting, I’ve yet to discover anything more powerful than trusting my instincts, trusting what I teach my kids is in their best interest, and trusting that they will make decisions that are beneficial for them. Most days, my sense of trust IS the best I’ve got.