I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve got to the end of a week, Sunday evening and thought back over the list of things I wanted to achieve, finish, or start. Realising I hadn’t moved any of them forward. Not one.
Being a parent often feels chaotic. The long-term priorities are constantly bombarded by an army of short-term needs, urgently shouting louder. Being the best I can at work, looking after the kids, making great memories with them, staying vaguely fit. Again and again, I’ve put off writing an article, painting that room, learning a new skill, starting a new project.
But a year ago or so I realised that parenting gives us, for the first time, certainty over the future. For the first time in your life you know with near absolute certainty that there are conversations you will have and situations you will have to, and hope to, experience.
Hopefully, I will see my children achieve more of the things that mean the world to them. Winning the competition, nailing a performance, getting that first date. There’s nothing like that feeling you get from them applying themselves, taking a risk and succeeding. It’s one of those highs that you have to become a parent to experience.
Then of course there are the things you don’t want to deal with but probably will. Experimenting with alcohol (my eldest is 8, so I will be no doubt be dealing with this in 6-8 years’ time), not knowing where they are and not being able to get hold of them, being a victim. The easiest source of consolation is the adage adversity makes you stronger. It does and they need to experience pain, suffering and hardship to have any chance of succeeding in the future. But it doesn’t make it any easier.
What this new found ability to predict the future with relative accuracy, means I have a responsibility. Part of my job is to prepare them in the best way possible for the ups and downs of life. Having been through many of them myself, it’s my duty to help my kids make the most of them. Not to avoid them mind, because that would be doing them the biggest disservice of experiencing a full life. Not avoiding them, but being prepared for them. I’ve found myself thinking about this three ways.
Laying the foundation. I see this as helping give them the values and inner resources they will need to navigate the tough situations and make more of the good ones. Things like resilience, self-esteem, self-awareness, empathy, and a bunch of others.
Positioning us parents (sorry I work in communications, so this is how I think). This one’s about making sure they can and will come to us with anything. It’s not about being their friend. It’s about them knowing 100% that we’re there for them. Judgement-less, unconditional love, care and support. Helping them reflect on and find solutions to their problems and telling them, repeatedly that we are here for them no matter what.
Looking out for tips and tricks from others. Like the child texting ‘X’ to a parent. A sign that the child is in a situation they want to get out of but for whatever reason feels like they can’t. So simple and so effective.
That’s what I’m working on. It’s not quick but most of it is in the moment anyway, so it’s not an extra thing I’m doing. It’s just the way me and my wife want to parent. The knowledge of the future does create a sense of urgency though, which in the era of ‘busyness’ is actually useful to turn ideas into action.