Why are we obsessed with having the answers?
What am I supposed to do? How much should I push? When do I pull back? What is the right answer? When is this child ever going to learn….? What am I to do?
We seem to be constantly questioning ourselves and our competency. We’re never good enough. Perfectionism seems to be on the rise. Is it human nature or is it the chaotic world we presently inhabit that seems to foster addictions to performance and outcome — the “shoulds” of life? Most of us worry about what has been and what will come. It’s amazing how much one simple “should” can create anxiety in an otherwise perfectly fine moment.
We know that the key to less stressful living is to focus on the here and now, let go of the past, and stop overreaching into the future. The most precious moments and lessons we can pass on to our children come out of the times when we are completely connected in the moment. Whether it is a moment of screaming and meltdown from an angry or scared child to a moment of blissful adoration, connection is all that matters.
Connection means to be present without any assumptions or fears about what this behavior means for the future. The moment has nothing to do with whether I think I am a terrible or wonderful parent, whether my child is disobedient or perfect, or what this all will lead to. It’s all about accepting the moment: This is what is happening right now. This screaming is what my child is doing. It doesn’t mean anything other than the fact that my child is upset right now. This is the moment to deal with.
The more uncomplicated the moment, unfettered by here we go again or what is going to become of him? the better that moment will be. No judgments, no criticisms, no lessons to be taught—just be and accept what is happening. You don’t have to have the answer. It will appear when you let go of having to know what it is. That is true connection.
Surrender to what you don’t know
The biggest pitfall of parenting is the amount of anxiety we spend on doing the right thing. No matter the amount of worry, none of it ensures better parenting or better children. Think of the times when you have felt most connected to your children. There was no effort involved. You were just there, present and engaged. You probably weren’t “teaching” anything — just enjoying and understanding each other. How often does that happen in your day?
Think back to a happy memory with one of your parents. What were you doing? I bet it was not a moment your parent was trying to make you a better person. The simple moments are the ones that last, that ground us into belonging. These are the moments our children need much more than teaching lessons.
Are you willing to simply be present with your child regardless of how wonderful or how awful the event? Can you just stay with what is and not try to figure out the right thing to say or do? Can you let go of past and future fears, expectations, and longings? Can you be more and teach less?
When you are problem solving with a child, you not only don’t have to have the right answer or know the best outcome, but you shouldn’t. The point of problem solving is to guide your child through her own thinking to come to her own conclusions, and then reach an agreement that works for both of you. But if you start off with the “right” outcome in mind, your agenda will interfere with the process and derail your child’s imagination. What you think is best may not at all be what is best for your child. Your agenda will keep you stuck in the outcome.
The true measure of faith in yourself and your child is to allow the unknown to be okay.
There is nothing that tests faith and trust more than parenting a child you fear will take wrong turns. What parent doesn’t fear this? A strong foundation and family structure is essential to provide that child with a launching pad from which he can trust being in the present. Once that structure is established, faith and trust is what it’s all about. To parent with creativity (which involves a lot more fun than many parents are now having) involves building that trust because you are never going to know how it will all turn out. So why not just surrender to the unknown. It feels like such a risk, but your worry does nothing but interfere in your relationship. You can deal with mistakes and problems when they happen. Worry does not prevent their showing up.
Next time you feel that clutching sensation — “What do I do? What do I say? I have to stop this behavior right now.” — try saying to yourself, “I don’t know what to do and that’s okay. It will come.” And then breathe. Leave the situation for as long as you need (could be an hour, a day, a week), wait until emotions have cooled, and then trust that the answer will be there when you are able to connect with your child. Take the risk of not knowing. When you let go of the outcome, you allow possibility for creative solutions that neither you nor your child would come up with otherwise.