The first of June was declared the Global Day of Parents by the United Nations. In my experience, there is no greater love than the love parents have for their children. Parents deserve to be celebrated. It’s the one job almost everyone can do with zero training—other than the parenting we, ourselves, received as children. Sometimes this early training helps; other times, not so much.
Recreation is a biological drive to ensure survival of the species and as luck would have it, having sex is also quite enjoyable for most people. Sometimes people become parents with great planning and forethought; other times, it happens by accident. Whatever precipitated the event, from the moment of conception throughout that parent’s life, they will sacrifice much in service of ensuring their child has a happy, healthy and successful life.
I don’t believe any parent becomes a parent with the sole intent of harming their children, although there are some extremely rare exceptions. However, even those exceptions can be understood within the context of their own parenting, addiction or some other force affecting their ability to prioritize their children’s wellbeing.
Many parents have children without a clue of what to expect. Even after reading all the parenting books and articles you can find, nothing prepares parents for that moment when they realize this tiny human is going home with them and they are responsible for keeping it alive. That is terrifying.
Through trial and error, most parents become good-enough parents. A good-enough parent works to understand what their child needs and makes their best attempts to provide those things within reasonable boundaries. Of course, many times they will get it wrong, but they are learning, and as they learn, they get it right more often than not.
Children’s needs change as they grow and mature. Children neepad safety, attachment, love, care, discipline, boundaries, guidance, accomplishment, self-efficacy and much more. As they grow, they will need support and challenge; parents learn to balance these and so much more.
As Dr. Nancy Buck teaches in Peaceful Parenting, parents are controlling for their child’s safety above everything else. Most children are working for their other needs of connection, significance, freedom and joy. These needs are often in direct conflict with a parents’ goal of keeping their child safe, causing regular conflict between children and their parents.
When parents are ready to give up or give in, they don’t. They keep on going and see this parenting gig through. Through to when? That’s right, a parent’s job is never done. Parents provide support and guidance to their children throughout their entire lifetime.
Parents give up sleep, meals, sex, friends and hobbies all in the interest of raising their child. They spend copious amounts of money on their children and invest in their safety, happiness and success. Parenting is the most important job anyone ever undertakes, with the biggest risks, far-ranging consequences and ultimate rewards.
Parents are prone to many sleepless nights, wondering if their decisions and actions will have a deleterious effect on their child’s wellbeing. For the most part, it’s a crap shoot. The good news is that research shows we just need to be good-enough parents because our children are quite resilient and will survive most of the average mistakes we parents make. It’s a learn-as-you-go model.
If there’s one thing I’d like parents to know on this Global Day of Parents, it’s that at every point in your child’s life, you did the best you could in the moment with the information available to you. Please, don’t look back, judging yourself based on who you are in this moment with the knowledge you have now. If you were the same person back then as you are now, you would have chosen differently, but you weren’t. Rest in the knowledge you did the best you could and your children are here because of the sacrifices you made. Without you, there would be no them. Celebrate yourself on this Global Day of Parents.