Parents, I know you all try your best to raise children who will be upstanding, productive, and responsible members of society. You are to be commended for your effort! But we need to have a chat about something, and it will either be a relief to hear, or an offense to your ears: this parenting thing and how your kids turn out? It’s not about you.
Grab a chair and let me explain.
What I mean by it’s not about you…
I like my kids. They’re decent kids. And I’d like to think that some part of me has been involved in creating that part of them.
But somewhere along the line in parenting, I had to cut the cord that tied me to thinking my children and every single thing they do is a reflection of me, my mad parenting skills, and how much love I have slathered upon them.
Meaning: my kids have a mind of their own and will make decisions apart from me.
And sometimes, the choices they make will have nothing to do with me.
Seriously. It’s not about you.
Parents, to be sure, suffer from a weird kind of narcissism. I’m talking about that thing where we want our kids to appear a certain way because of how it reflects on us as parents.
Yes, I just said that.
We want our kids to appear well-behaved, polite, open-minded, free and easy, (insert adjective of choice) oftentimes not because of what it will mean for them in the future, but because of how it makes us look as their parent right now.
We need to get over that. Fast. Because:
a) it’s not about you, and,
b) what a child turns out to be is not completely (ever?) the work of the parent.
You don’t agree?
Come on. Let’s be honest. Regardless of how you were raised, don’t you think you have something to do with where you ended up?
Or are you still doing everything you do because of your parents?
I’m not commenting on the manner in which your parents brought you up—I’m simply saying that somewhere along the line, your choices weren’t about them anymore. You became independent.
Child behavior: It’s not about you. Consider that it might actually be about them.
We have to be very careful in saying that kids who are successful are a direct result of their parenting and that kids who screw up are a direct result of their parenting because that theory just doesn’t hold all the water that’s poured into it.
Sure, we all know kids who have survived because of their parents…but I think we all know a few that survived despite them as well.
Likewise, we all know parents who seemed to do all the right things and ended up turning out a kid or two who couldn’t attend the family holiday dinner because they were in jail. Again.
Hypocritical much? The degree to which parenting matters totally depends on who we are talking about.
People like to talk about how adults who were raised with cruddy childhoods need to stop blaming their parents for their current lot in life and realize they have responsibility for where their life ends up.
But, class, you can’t say that to one half of the population and ignore its truth for the rest. You can’t cry people are responsible for their own choices! out one side of your mouth, while exclaiming out the other side how perfect your own children will turn out because of the choices you’ve made for them.
You can raise kids with all the “right theories” and in the “perfect environment” and still have them turn out to be completely opposite from what you thought because—spoiler alert—they have a mind of their own.
At some point you have to accept this as a possibility.
At some point you have to realize kids are who they are.
You have to cut the cord and figure out where your responsibility ends and where your child’s takes over. And let it be.
Deep breath. Exhale.
Do what you can. They do the rest.
And it’s out of your hands.
So, wait. Does parenting even matter?
I know. Now you’re saying, “So, I should just give up? I should just not care? Because my kids are going to turn out the way they’re going to turn out?”
Hold up. Calm your fingers down.
Does parenting matter? Sure it does. And you know what else?
And the truth of the matter is that none of us can see the future so we just don’t know how it’s all going to work out for the kids that got set in front of us. It’s the age old question of nature vs. nurture.
And that, fellow parents of unpredictable offspring, is the hardest thing for us to swallow.
So yes, parents do your best. Give it your all. Go big or go home. But for Pete’s sake, let your kids take some of that responsibility, too. Because you can shove in all the good you want, but it’s their choice (and theirs alone) what comes out on the other end.
Remember, parents. The choices your kids make are not about you.
I adore my kids. I think they’re pretty darn awesome.
Do they still say things that make me want to smack my head? Will they make choices that make me think, Seriously? I didn’t raise you that way! Of course they do.
But I think one of the best choices we can make as a parent is to burn the bridge that makes the false connection of my kids are completely this way because of every single choice I’ve made in parenting.
For some parents, burning that bridge will be a relief.
For some, it’s going to be offensive.
I choose to take it as permission to breathe a little easier with the realization that my kids have a brain they can use. After I’ve done my work as a parent, the rest is up to them. It’s their responsibility. Their choice.