I’m an introspective person. It’s a trait that intensified when I was born a mother three years ago. My first-born carries me through unchartered parenting territory with each leap he makes, nudging me along a cycle of first feeling vulnerable with what is new, motivation to then understand, followed by confidence in what we learned together.
Vulnerability and doubt. Motivation and preparation. Confidence and wisdom. This is parenthood, isn’t it? We feel like we don’t know what we’re doing, and these are the hardest points of our journeys to admit. I firmly believe that these lows are some of the best points, though, because they kick us into gear. We ask questions, which leads to answers. We step back in humility, which leads to needed change. We step forward with intent, which leads to engagement. Then we reach the top of that mountain, and we relish in our deserved parenting success, connecting more deeply in this transient stage of our lives.
We learn that our children do not progress in a linear manner, and I think it’s important to honor that our own parenting journeys are not linear either. There are so many things that I learn on a weekly basis with a toddler and preschooler, and so many things that I do differently today than I did just a year ago; none of these progressions were instantaneous. They required grace and patience towards myself and my husband just as much as they required grace and patience towards our children.
I think this needs to be normalized to counter today’s tone of perfect parenting. Personal growth first requires vulnerability and doubt. Anyone who misconstrues these parts of your journey as weaknesses does not deserve a space in your circle. Wisdom cannot simply be bestowed down to someone; it is earned through experience. Surround yourself with voices not aimed at merely correcting you to get you to climb faster but at truly empowering you for wherever you are on your mountain.
Now that I have more to reflect on with my preschooler, I’m learning this important focus of grace more than ever. We recently graduated a lot! We got through the alleged “terrible two’s,” we conquered specific fears, we gained social confidence, we adapted to life with a baby sibling, we learned to use the potty, we moved to a big boy bed for sleep, we nurtured more independent play after what seemed like never-ending play dependencies, and last but not least, we survived what were very challenging baby days marked by colicky-reflux for months on end. None of these learning curves were ones that I was perfectly prepared for or seamlessly handled; they were just as much lessons for me as they were for him.
While it seems obvious that this growth is nothing but celebratory, we are sometimes caught in that tone of correction. “Here’s what I did wrong. “Here’s what I wish I would’ve known then.” “Know better, do better,” as if our growth needs correction or justification. How redundant is that, though? Growth is self-correcting, so it doesn’t need to be framed in the context of right vs. wrong – and it most definitely does not need to be justified as if we should’ve had the answers from the start.
My growth as a mother is one of the things I am most proud of. It’s not a trail of mistakes. It’s a trail of strides that showcase how hard I have worked.
To the mom or dad who is currently in a valley, I see you. Keep being vulnerable, and keep asking questions because knowledge is power. Trust that it’s a journey, not a race. You’re not behind; you are learning. It’s perfectly okay to be exactly where you are. You are not alone, and you will get there.
To the mom or dad who is mid-climb, keep going! You are amazing for taking those first difficult steps towards making a positive change in your parent-child relationship. It’s challenging to sift through the noise and know which path is right, but trust that your instinct will guide you where outside perspectives lapse. Parenthood is a massively-shared experience. Sometimes you will follow footsteps of those who traveled before you; other times you will veer a path less traveled. There is no right or wrong.
To the mom or dad atop the mountain, cherish the moment. Yes there will be more challenges ahead, but take a deep breath and honor how far you have come. No matter how much help you had along the way, you were the one who put the work in with your own child. You deserve to feel strong. You deserve to feel joy. You deserve to feel confident. We’re never done learning, but don’t let that rush you onto the next. Be still. You have time. Use it to reflect, use it to empower, use it to connect.
No matter where we are in our parenting journeys, chances are we could all use a little more grace and a little more patience. How will you give that to yourself and those around you?