What Parenting Isn’t

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There is a whole culture around parenting. Visit any bookstore and you will find shelves upon shelves of books purporting to tell you what is wrong with your kids, and how to fix it. Everything from what to feed them, to how to get them to sleep, how to snuff out challenging behaviours and why too much screen time is bad. For even more fun, hit Google, and type in any question you have about how to raise kids and you will get avalanches of information on the topic from every one ranging from mommy bloggers to scientists. Most of it will contradict itself, and you will end up more confused than you were when you began.

 I mean, all you’re trying to do is raise your kids in the absolute best way you possibly can, that’s can’t be so hard, right?

 To make matters worse, parenting seems to have fallen into the “white noise” of western culture. For all that we are told the myriad of ways that we are screwing up our kids, and exactly how to put it right, parenting is not considered to be an important job.  All you have to do is tell someone you are a stay at home mom, and the western perception of the value of parenting becomes clear.  The look of pity, the curious eyes, perhaps asking when you plan to “go back to work” ?

 Everyone seems to think that they know best “what parenting is”. Except parents.  Once you become a parent, all your ideas about parenting go out the window. It might make for a shorter list to talk about what parenting isn’t.

 For starters, parenting ISN”T a worthless job, that has no value to society. Quite the contrary in fact. Research has shown that parents as a group are one of the most powerful groups there is when it comes to galvanizing social change. Take any remarkable time in history, 1940’s Germany is a great example, go back 30 or so years and observe the parenting practices at that time in Germany, and you can fairly reliably predict that Nazi Germany would be the outcome.   What you do in your home, the methods you use, and your outlook on your job has an incredibly powerful effect on society.  Imagine if that power was ever tapped? Think about it, we are raising the next generation of workers, politicians, activists, scientists and thinkers. Who we are as parents has a great deal of influence over the world of the future. You are not insignificant. 

 At the same time though, parenting isn’t about YOU. The work of parenting is a verb.  Parenting is all about what you do.  Discipline methods, routines, housework, boundaries, expectations, all of these are the actions of parenting.  These are not about you.  You do these things for your children, motivated by the outcomes you so deeply desire for them.  There is something that we overlook though. Something so powerful. While there is a whole culture regarding the how of parenting, there is little to no attention paid to the WHO.  You. The parent.  If parenting is all about what you do, parenthoodIS about you. Parenthood is a noun. It is the state of being a parent. This is all about YOU. Who you are in this role, the quality of how you inhabit it. Think about it. Everything you do is enhanced and improved when you attend to the quality of your self that you bring to it. As a society we pay very little attention to this, and it has led to the immense amount of grief, dissonance and dissatisfaction parents often feel.  Attending to YOU, and your needs, and desires brings a whole new dimension to the parenting journey. And dare I say a great deal more quality to your work as a parent. 

 Parenting is not easy.  Yes, a great deal of the things that we do as parents are simple things. We make breakfast, we do laundry, we help with homework, we mediate arguments, we marshal them through routines. These are simple tasks, but in practice they are not always easy.  In this way, parenting challenges us to evolve as people. We are called to become a better, stronger, more flexible version of ourselves as we navigate the mundanities of raising our young. Many of us fall victim to feeling constantly as though we are failing in some very fundamental ways. Parenting culture contributes to this by offering a myriad of solutions to what we could not possibly figure out on our own.  I mean really, parenthood is a role as old as time itself. As long as their have been humans, there have been parents. One would think that there would be a great deal of instinct involved.  There probably is, but as a modern society, we are so trained to look outside of ourselves for approval that we have become completely unable to hear the quiet, resonant whispers of our instincts.  And those of us who can hear them often feel that they fly in the face of what society expects of us, thereby reinforcing the notion that we are somehow fundamentally failing both our children and society. 

Parenthood isn’t a lot of things. What it IS is a powerful vehicle for personal and social change. And when we inhabit it powerfully, with consciousness and intention, we unlock our incredible personal potential to change the world.

** Originally published in Windsor Parent Magazine, 2017

Seasons of Love

We had a marvelous day at Wagner’s Orchard and Estate Winery.

The truth is, this expedition did not happen as expeditiously as I had planned. We had originally slated the outing for last weekend, but due to some saucey behavior on the part of my young ‘uns it was rescheduled and ended up taking place today.

On the way there my mom’s lovely Buick indicated that one of the doors was ajar (A door is not a JAR a door is a door. Don’t get me started. Anyhow) so we pulled over to the side of the road to figure out which one it was. Upon opening and closing all of the doors, we managed to satisfy the indicator light and it subsided into darkness. Before we pulled away however, another car pulled up behind us and a woman got out. She clearly was looking for some help as she was glancing anxiously at her phone and waving me over. I opened my car door (again) and went to see how I could help. Turns out they were looking for the same road we were going to be turning on. Street name reassignment, which happens on occasion, was resulting in their GPS not being able to locate the road. I told her we were headed in the same direction and to follow us. Being the awesome ninja mom that I am, upon returning to the car I proceeded to point out the serendipity to my children. Sometimes, I told them, things happen that we might think are bad or annoying and they turn out to put us in a position to do something nice for someone else who needs it. They followed us the rest of the way to the orchard and carried on as their destination was quite a piece of road further than ours.

Before heading to the hayride I needed to find the *ahem* facilities. I was told, much to my displeasure, that the port-a-potty that I had already spied was the place I needed to go. Let me be clear here, poopy public port-a-potties are not an alliteration that I am elated about. Regardless, I steeled myself to the stink and took care of business. One packed hayride later we found ourselves in the back orchard ready to de-apple some trees.

The munchkins gleefully climbed in and out of apple trees and picked as many apples as their little hands could carry. Having come to this same orchard for three years in a row now I found myself looking at my children this year and marveling in just how much they have grown. The first time I took them here they could reach none but the lowest hanging fruit. Now, they are climbing trees and getting the ones that even I cannot reach. It boggles the mind, and I look forward to future years with gratitude in my heart for the ability to be witness to the marvel of their growth.

A full bag of apples in hand, we remounted the packed hayride and returned to the front of the property. My girl child was frustrated that the fullness of the hayride prevented her from seeing the farm animals that she holds so dear. I have often referred to her as my little animal whisperer as she has always displayed an affinity for the four legged beasties that also inhabit our little blue dot. So, after being dropped at the front of the orchard I slogged down the boggy road with her towards the fence where I knew the horses and pigs could be found.

We proffered pocket apples to the horses and exchanged coos and grunts with the sow before heading back up the road to the small park structure and homestead store where the goodies were vended. Being the talker that I am I made a friend there, of course. Turns out one of the lovely ladies who works and lives at the farm also makes her living as a French teacher. After exchanging French pleasantries with her, I purchased my much anticipated bottle of cherry wine, tub of unpasteurized honey and homemade apple streudal.

My mother and I munched.. well.. ok, I munched, she watched with sad puppy eyes as she cannot participate in the sugary wonder due to her diabetes. We chatted and laughed while the children played at the park and then we loaded them back in the car and headed for home.

Dinner consisted of sautéed apples and onions over chicken and apple cinnamon stuffed crescent rolls for dessert. It was delicious and warm, and enjoyed with the best of company.

Fall is not my favourite season, but it does hold some of my most precious motherhood memories. As my children, my mother and myself grow, I have yearly pilgrimages to the apple orchard to mark time and take snapshots of all of my beloved people as they age. Because this too shall pass. I think that sometimes we forget to apply this mindset to the good times as well. It all goes by so very quickly, and if your eyes are not open, you will miss the most ordinary miraculous moments. Moments that will sustain you when the trying times come. Moments that will feed your soul as you move through the maze of marvels that is life on this planet.

Seasons change and time marches inexorably forwards. Days like today remind me to savor every joy, marvel in every moment of beauty. Like the beauty in the symphony of fall colours, these moments will shrivel and pass before we know it. Stop, mark the moment, marvel in the beauty and rawness of it, and know that there are inevitably more to follow that you have not even conceived of yet.

Happy Apple Picking Day Friends J

May you be present to all of your own ordinary miracles as they thunder past. This is the meaning of life. Life itself is the point.

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