I like the phrase “deliberate parenting.” I like the idea of deliberate anything. I spent a large portion of my life formulating goals and then working methodically to achieve them. To quit that mindset when I became a mother seemed odd to me. Why would I approach this endeavor any differently?
So I began to raise my children with my version of deliberate. I read all of the books. I joined the online communities. I wrote about and analyzed and discussed and analyzed (again) all of my moves. I considered how I wanted my children to turn out, and then I tried to determine what parenting methods would get me there. I took pride in every accomplishment of my oldest, and I hyper-analyzed every fault to determine where I went wrong.
But then something happened.
I had my second– and then my third child.
Here’s the thing: all three of my children are amazing. They are all beautiful and talented and intelligent and kind. They are everything I could have ever hoped for. But, they are all so different. How, with such differences among them, could I be responsible for all the outcomes when I haven’t fundamentally changed who I am or how I parent?
My oldest is incredibly kind and nurturing. If anyone is hurt or sad, she will be the first to head over and give them a hug and a kiss. She has a capacity for empathy that amazes me. She is also incredibly creative, and she loves showing off any of her masterpieces.
My middle daughter is spunk personified. She is energetic and passionate and so full of joy that you can’t help but catch a bit of it whenever you are around her. One glance at her face when she is lost in a moment could sustain me for months.
My youngest daughter is a peaceful soul. From the beginning, she gave smiles freely. If you sit on the floor with her, she will carefully push her little bottom closer and closer until she is practically sitting on you because she loves being near people. She’s learning to high five and blow kisses and use some signs, and all of her movements are soft and gentle, as is the look in her eyes.
They are three little girls with three very different personalities, temperaments, strengths, and weaknesses. And they are being raised by the same two parents.
I’m not going to go so far as to say that what we do doesn’t matter. In fact, I think it matters greatly. I think the way we speak to them and the way we speak to ourselves matter. I think the experiences we bring to them matter. I think the influences we allow into their lives can shape their souls, for better or worse. I think parenting is the single greatest endeavor I will ever embark upon, and because of that, I think it deserves my very best, most deliberate behavior.
However, I no longer believe that what I do is the only thing that matters. Who they are, what they want, and how they want it matter just as much to the outcome. I know that nothing I can do will temper my middle daughter’s passion, and I would never want it to. I know there is nothing I could have done to instill that empathy in my oldest daughter had the seeds not been planted in her being before she consciously knew me. And I know that barring any extreme negative events, nothing I could do could add to or detract from the spirit of peace my youngest has had embedded in her soul from the very beginning.
These are gifts that they have brought to the table. To assume that my actions matter the most in their little lives gives me all the power while taking away their own gifts and talents and ambitions.
I still very much believe in deliberate parenting. My belief is reflected in who I am and how I choose to be. However, when I approach it, I make sure to remember that I am not the single deciding factor, and that brings an enormous amount of peace to my life.
It means that I can be myself–imperfect and messy–and my children will still have a very good chance of turning out great based upon their own merit. It means I can relax a bit and savor the moments rather than always trying to control them. It means I can sometimes just let things be.
My kids and I are partners in this endeavor of growing them up. I can’t wait to see where this journey takes us.
QUESTION: What individual strengths do each of your children bring to the table, and what strengths and weaknesses do you, as a mother, bring to the relationship?
CHALLENGE: Determine which areas, if any, of your parenting you might be overly concerned about. Try to figure out what positive actions you can take, and then try to trust your child to make up for the difference. Relax your worries for a month, and see if things deteriorate, improve, or stay about the same.
Edited by Tanisha DuBransky and Sarah Monson.
Image of girls provided by the author.
Main image from Shutterstock with graphics by Julie Finalyson.