Parenting is one of the toughest jobs we will ever encounter. Before I had children, I remember thinking about what my family would look like, how my children would behave, and the perfection of it all. Of course, as soon as I gave birth, this unrealistic “storybook” fantasy was out the window. The dream we all have about our future children, their success, their perfect behavior, for example, at a restaurant or on an airplane, are all dreams, not realities. These idealized images can truly affect and damage the way in which we look at our children and our family.
The most detrimental thing about this storybook fantasy is that I was trying to parent the children in a way that was consistent with the fantasy, instead of actually seeing the children that I did have. These unrealistic visions of what we think our children could be cloud our judgment when parenting the children we have in front of us. These idealized thoughts and feelings don’t allow us, as parents, to fully live in the present and to see and appreciate our children for who they are, not who we want them to be.
One of the many things that I help parents tap into is the child in front of them. In my own experience, life became somewhat easier when I was able to let go of my fantasy and tap into reality. This does not happen overnight, rather it is a process. For me, it was a wake-up call. When I let go of these unrealistic fantasized expectations, I was able to see my children – their sensitivities, their needs, the things they enjoyed and did not enjoy, what made them tick, and so on. I was able to work on my own parenting to try to do a better job of meeting their needs, not what I thought their needs should be.
For example, one of my girls needed the space to run around and let her energy out of her body. When she didn’t have an opportunity to do this, what I noticed was that the energy came out in other ways, and it was usually unpleasant. When she was given the space and the time to do what she needed to do – run, play, and decompress – she was more tolerant, relaxed, and accepting of the time spent doing homework, sitting for dinner, and going to bed. But seeing this need took me a lot of time to acknowledge. My other daughter did not have those same needs. She had the need for a quiet snack, time alone, hugs and love. Every child is so different and when we can see their needs more clearly by observing their behaviors and attitudes, we truly can do a better job of meeting those needs and creating more peace and harmony in our homes. We all wish to have our needs met to some degree, right?
As I shifted my focus over time, I do remember a grieving process: a process of letting go of what I thought this was going to be like. We need to acknowledge the dream and how it does not support the reality. As I let go, the expectations were different. They felt lighter; I was more focused on the moment, the signs and signals of what my child needed, and my parenting skills and how they needed to grow. Does this sound familiar in any way? Is this something you are experiencing now?
The realization that my children were not my dream helped me to gain insight into my role in meeting their needs. I began moving away from heavy control – one where I thought I could mold the kids to become my vision or dream to one where I saw my children more clearly and tried to create space for them to grow and thrive in their own right, not mine.
This is a journey. This is work. This is not a walk in the park by any means. However, as you set that clouded idealization aside, you realize the beautiful and unique people in front of you. You become an observer in your children’s lives, helping them navigate their path as opposed to choosing it for them. I found it to be incredibly eye-opening, as well as an opportunity for me to grow in my own parenting. Imagine how this affected my children?
Seeing our children for who they are, not who we want them to be, takes focus in every moment. It also requires us to release any preconceived notion of what this journey will look like. It will never be exactly what we expect. As we see our children clearly, admiring their personality traits, needs, interests, and ideas, we can create a beautiful environment for them to thrive in. What do you see in your children? What do you admire about their interests, character traits, and thoughts? Do you struggle in this area? If so, please reach out to me. I would be happy to help you as you move forward on your parenting journey.