Adults without children are notoriously opinionated on the correct methods of parenting. I am among the worst of them. Those opinions can only have a certain amount of validity being as they’ve never been field-tested. But once one becomes pregnant, those philosophies begin to take on substance—even while the guinea pig is still in utero.
The best way to become the parents we wish to be is to lay down a foundational vision before our little protagonists come tearing into this world. My vision came to me when I began to dig into the question:
What do I envision this human to be?
At first, the answer was immediately forthcoming: I envision my little one to be joyful, yet fiercely independent; wild, yet respectful of others. I imagine her with an immense capacity to love, an imagination without limits, a dazzling intelligence, and a carefree—sometimes witty, sometimes goofy—sense of humor.
In other words, I envision my child to be a super–human version of myself.
It struck me how unfair it was to project these hopes onto my daughter, who has not even had her first glimpse of this world. She could be solemn, straight-edge, materialistic, and brooding. It happens. Children often come out the opposite of their parents. Although it seems nearly impossible, given our house resembles a hit sit–com more than reality TV show.
I try to quiet my mind and listen, to feel her energy and hear who she might really be. I don’t get very far. The line between hope and reality is a blurry one.
Noel believes babies come out as blank slates, with nothing more than character quirks. I have little doubt they come out with quite a bit of their own personality.
But what if they are mostly blank slates? If they only have seeds that our nurturing either suppresses or helps to flower? Maybe that’s why so many people want children: they figure their personal slate is overly cluttered with deep etchings too difficult to remove; it would be easier to start from scratch.
Whether humans come into this world as truly blank slates or with some preliminary sketches marked on the notebooks of their minds, our role as parent is the same: to be meticulously conscious in our raising of them.
What does that even mean? Well, to calm our minds and follow our intuition, primarily. While it’s useful to be aware of various parenting styles and philosophies, as they can expand our vision of what’s possible and what works, ultimately, good parenting requires a lot of listening to our children, deciphering their coded languages, and acting accordingly.
The difficulty with child-rearing (I suspect, as I have yet to field test my own arrogant opinions!) is no different than the artists struggle: how to put aside all of our hopes and fears which rattle our bones in their desire to project themselves onto the virginal canvas, and instead intuit what is longing to come forth and nurture that in the highest possible way.
And so I imagine that the challenge of parenting for me will be a reflection of a theme that runs through all of my passions: letting go of the end result and learning to love the process.
My child doesn’t need to be a super–human version of me. She doesn’t need to be the ideal I have failed to meet. My responsibility is to give her the tools to be authentically, confidently the highest version of herself—whether or not it’s the version I hope for. (The keyword here being highest. Tyrants, bullies, and spoiled, shrieking banshees will not be tolerated).
So whatever parenting hacks I experiment with, and however much my mind changes on what is right and best for my daughter, this is my foundational philosophy and I’m stickin’ to it.