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.