Parenting as a Portal, Or, Why I Never Give Parenting Advice
I’ve never been one to give parenting advice, for two reasons: 1. I’ve always hated people giving ME advice when they have no idea about my personal situation, or even if they do; and 2. My parenting philosophy is a bit different from most of the people I know, largely because of my spirituality.
I’ve been questioned about my philosophy recently–not in a bad way. I’ve seen wonderful people with all the “right stuff” raise hellions who turned into hardened criminals and I’ve seen some of the sorriest excuses for human beings produce saints. There is no guaranteed formula, and even though many parents are broken-hearted if their kids don’t behave exactly as desired, I’ve always had my own thoughts on the subject. I love them, regardless.
Recently, I’ve had a lot of people tell me how proud I must be of my daughters. Aislinn, at 15, is competing in forensics at the National level and has finally discovered what she wants to do with her life. Shannon, at barely 18, has just finished her AA degree before her upcoming high school diploma, volunteers regularly at a local daycare, works part-time to full-time at a local store, bought her first car on her own, and is spearheading a charity project right now. Yes, I have a lot to be proud of them for.
But I don’t take credit for who they are. I don’t take credit any more than I take the blame if they’re not perfect.
By the time Shannon started high school, my ex and I shared custody but she was with me most of the time so I was able, with relatively little interference, to let her start making more of her own decisions. I didn’t always like those decisions, but it was a safe environment for her to make decisions rather than suddenly being out on her own and either insecure or oblivious. If she needed help and asked, I was always there and if she were ever in a situation where she needed a midnight ride home, no questions asked, she knew I’d be there for her. I let her choose her own classes but gave her input.
There was one occasion, when she was in the ninth grade, that she announced to me that she couldn’t see the purpose in school or grades, and she wasn’t really going to put the effort in. I acknowledged that it was her decision. I know other parents would have chained her to a desk and demanded she study (I watched this with some of her classmates), but I knew that if she didn’t want to study, it would have been empty-headed sitting at a desk and no more. As with her courses and her decisions, I let her know what I didn’t agree with but that it was her life and she’d have to live with the consequences of these decisions, but not to ever come back to me and blame me for not making her do something that she was the only one who could make herself do it. A year after she’d announced her lack of caring about school, she’d done a 180 and knew exactly why she needed grades and school. But it was a place that she had to get to on her own and work out the motivation for herself. She sometimes kicks herself now because she won’t graduate with a perfect GPA, but she understands how it all correlates and she can focus on getting the grades and courses she wants in college (which is what she’s done over the past two years and why she has two years of college out of the way before she graduates from high school and with better grades to boot).
Yesterday, while we were out running errands, we came upon a family where the toddler was pitching a hissyfit and the parents were saying repeatedly “Stop it, darling,” or something like that. Shannon reminded me that she and Aislinn were never allowed to be disruptive or disrespectful. That’s true. I won’t say that the girls were controlled as small children, but they definitely had structure to live within.
As they’ve gotten older, I’ve tried to get them to challenge structures and define their own structure to live within. But I don’t spend my life trying to control them because I recognize that they have their own lives and their own desires. I don’t blame myself if they choose to do something in a different way than I would. It’s not my job to mold them (or anyone else) into Lorna’s Perfect Creation because they need to create their own lives, not me.
I guess the foundation for my parenting philosophy is that I did not create my children as I have works of art or works of my own hands. I instead simply provided a portal for their souls to enter the physical plane. What they do now that they’re here is up to them.