Listening For Your Own Answers

By now you’ve probably read Glennon Melton’s excellent “Save Your Relationships: Ask The Right Questions” post. If you haven’t, she talks about how we ask people how they’re doing, but these questions are so formulaic that they don’t allow us to connect to the real person we’re asking. To really show people that you care about them, you need to ask them questions that are specific to them, that allow them to share their experience with you, and not feel like they don’t fit into the space you’ve allowed for them in your life.

As I was reading the post I kept nodding my head and thinking, “Yes!” because this is what we’ve been doing here at AskMoxie for eight years now: parenting the kids you have. Most of us are here because of our “You are the best parent for your child” philosophy, that reminds us that we need to pay attention and listen and watch and learn about who our specific little human is, from the moment we meet that child, so that we can parent that specific child they way they need to be parented.

Parenting is a really loooooooong conversation with your child. Years and years and years, if we’re lucky. And part of that means that any one episode of screwing up isn’t going to make or break the relationship. But part of that means that we also need to have this conversation–including asking specific questions–with the kid we actually have instead of the ideal child.

No one has the ideal child. But you have someone way better–your own kid. And that’s really really comforting, because it’s hard to dig deep with the ideal, because the ideal is all surface. With a real person with their own quirks and problems, you can ask all those specific questions, give specific care, have the specific arguments, and have friction over specific things. All those specifics weave you together in a way that generalizations do not, and make you stronger and closer as a family.

But part of this, also, is about being who you are, not some generic ideal. YOU are the best parent for your child. YOU. Not some automaton who follows the scripts of the parenting manuals verbatim. Not a Stepford mom who never doubts or questions or worries or digs deeper or follows her instincts. Not a shiny bright robot who does everything correctly all the time. YOU. Even when you don’t think you’re enough.

When my second son was born, I spent the first year and a half of his life thinking I was the wrong mother for him. My first son had been so easy to read, and it was almost effortless for me to give him what he needed. This second child, though, seemed angry all the time, and I couldn’t soothe him. I knew that I was supposed to be keeping him calm and happy, and I’d been able to do that with my first, but this second child just didn’t respond to all my attempts at soothing. And then the therapist I was seeing because I was getting divorced said to me, “Maybe he just wants to be angry. And maybe you might feel better if you let yourself be angry, too.” So I let us both be angry, and it was exactly what he needed. He and I were really really angry–together–until we were done being angry, and then we were really tight.

I’m sure that some of you are getting tired of hearing me say “You had everything you needed in you the whole time.” But you do. You have everything you need for your whole life, including being the best parent ever for your own unique children, inside you right now. Don’t be afraid to tap into your own feelings, negative and positive. Don’t deny yourself your own dreams and desires and preferences. Prioritize yourself and your feelings so you can really bring everything you have to your family.

You are important, bad and good and messy and neat. You are the touchstone for your child, even when you’re cranky or feeling drained. Everything about you has value. You are good and right and true, exactly as you are. Be yourself.


This is probably a good time to mention that starting this Friday, the free Ask Moxie email–sign up in the box in the right-hand column if you’re not already getting it–is going to draw you through the process I use when I work with private clients (and weave into most of my workshops) that helps you clarify your priorities as a person to define your core values as a parent. I LOVE this process and I hope you do, too. Sign up if you’re not already getting the email.





12 thoughts on “Listening For Your Own Answers”

  1. Is there any way to sign up for the weekly email but not through a FB app? It’s asking me to give permission to blah blah blah w/ my FB profile and I really try to keep things linked w/ my FB account to a bare minimum…

    1. It’s asking you to do that? Ick. Sorry. Maybe open a different browser that you haven’t logged in to FB from and just put in your name and email and see if it bypasses the whole FB sign-up thing.

    2. if you click the little "x" in the fb form it should ask "do you want to clear this form and sign in manually?" and then you can input your name/email without involving facebook permissions. Worked for me using firefox on a mac.

  2. Sounds great, but what do you do when your children seem to be total strangers. when you have no mutual interests. My children are grown now, but I am still beating myself up over the fact that we share nothing of value. They never wanted to be cuddled or hugged. They never wanted to sit on my lap and read. Before I got married children seemed to be frightened by my appearance. I was no glamor girl, but I didn’t think I looked so bad that children ran away from me. I thought that things would be different when I had my own children.
    Sorry to burden you with my lament, but I am nearing the end of my life and I really need some closure to this which has troubled me all these years.

    1. Have you asked your kids how they felt about their childhood? And if they have any insights about why you weren’t closer? They might have picked up on something you didn’t see in the way you were communicating, and could tell you. If you don’t ask you’ll never know, and they are really the only ones who know what it was that didn’t connect. I’m so sorry you’re going through this.

  3. Magda, do you ever wonder how the "you are the best parent for your child" schtick feels to those of us who were abused as children?

    1. I hope that anyone who was abused as a child can take heart that they can still be good parents to their own children. That whatever was done to them as children doesn’t determine their destiny, and that they can be the parents their children need, even if they didn’t get what they themselves deserved as children.

      1. When you make these sweeping affirmations that everyone is the best parent for their child, does that mean an abusive parent is the best parent for the child that they have? Of course you don’t mean that, but it’s kind of hard to read it anyway. It just isn’t true. The mom part of me loves your work, but when I read from a child’s perspective I often feel silenced and left out by this kind of thing, and the rosy picture of divorce that you paint.

        I’ve noticed that you haven’t been posting as much lately, and I hope you and Doug and the kids are all doing ok.

        1. I’m sorry you’re hurt by things that I write. If you need to protect yourself by not reading here, then please do so. You deserve to not be hurt.

          I write from the parent perspective. Not from the kid perspective. My hope is that by caring for ourselves we can have the space and resources to honor our kids. And I don’t say that everyone is the best parent for their children. I say that YOU are the best parent for your child. You are. You have the capacity to give your kids what they need.

          But again, if my telling parts of my story is hurtful to you, protect yourself. You have the right to stop reading things that don’t feel good to you. I don’t have anything that you don’t have in yourself already, and if reading here makes you feel diminished, then don’t read here anymore. I can’t tell your story–only you can do that.

  4. Magda, do you ever think about how the "you are the best parent for your child" schtick feels to people who were abused by their parents?

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