There are times when being a parent lead me face to face with my own inadequacies. I think it’s fair to assume I am not alone (I hope!). Being a parent adds significance to the weight of every decision. Every decision. What we eat. What we wear. How we talk. Who we talk to. What we say no to. What we say yes to. How we deal with our mistakes.
I remember one of the first times I felt the weight of a decision I had made as a parent. My babies were in the NICU and visitors were restricted. Only Garrett and I were permitted to be in our babies’ rooms, though we had the option to designate other family members who could visit if we were not there. We gave permission to Garrett’s parents, figuring of course grandparents should be able to visit their grandbabies if we happened to be away for a short while, though it was hard for me to imagine where I would possibly go. But I remember the first time I walked into the babies’ hospital room and saw my in-laws there, cooing over my little ones in incubators. The wave of protectiveness and jealousy that swept over me was overwhelming. It’s a wonder I was able to bite my tongue, though I gave my poor husband an ear-full. No one was doing anything wrong, mind you, but I was new to the throes of new mother hormones and the wild emotions that accompany them. Suffice it to say that my husband and I had made a decision together, but the weight of it didn’t hit me until I witnessed its full implications.
Parenting has consequences. Every decision we make as parents has consequences, good, bad, or neutral. Nine years later, the weight of this reality continues to hit me regularly.
What I do today has consequences for tomorrow. The friends they make today shape who they are tomorrow; the activities we choose today will influence their environments tomorrow; the lessons I teach them today will shape their character for tomorrow.
So what if I taught them something yesterday and today find out I was wrong?
Oh goodness, the implications keep piling up.
We are all constantly learning and growing. We are all changing our minds—at least we ought to be. Growing means changing, and changing means we’re not the same as we once were. Which means we may look back on how we parented our kids when they were little and think of a few things we would have done differently. Maybe we would have sleep trained earlier; maybe we would never let them cry it out. Maybe we would have given ourselves a break and bottle fed sometimes; maybe we would have surrendered some freedom if we could only get those precious moments of nursing back. Maybe we would discipline more, maybe less. Retrospect makes stellar parents of us all.
But in the moment—what do we do in the moment when we think it’s time to change course? What do to we do when we think Up until now I thought one way, but now I think I was wrong. How do I change the direction of this ship? How do I turn a 180 and bring my kids with me?
There is authenticity in vulnerability. I’m not purporting to have any magic formula, but I do believe in the power of laying ourselves bare before those closest to us and asking a simple question: Will you walk a new path with me?
Such a question requires humility. It requires courage. But humility and courage are honorable characteristics. People recognize them, are drawn to them. People appreciate someone who is willing to admit that they thought something different yesterday, and so they did differently yesterday, but today they are charting a new course because a new thing came to light. Share with them what came to light for you. Share with them what made you change your mind. It might change theirs too.
It might not. That’s always the fear, isn’t it? That I will change and my loved ones won’t change with me? But then daring to be vulnerable, daring to love and ask others to love us, these are not undertakings for the faint of heart. Do them anyway. Be vulnerable. Dare to love. Dare to accept the love others offer to you.
The implications of my decisions weigh heavily on me. My kids and my family are along for this ride with me. But we are not faint of heart. We will bare ourselves to each other and dare to grow in the process. Of this I am sure.