Just yesterday I came across yet another article on the web that promises to reveal special “secrets” of parenting that only those in the know, know. I don’t know about you, but these merciless manipulations irk me, motivating me to dispute their snide implication:
Without these treasured tidbits we will fail miserably, again and again, until we possess all the secrets! Poor us, with so many secrets out there, how do we ever rear children successfully without them?
No, a thousand times NO…there are NO Secrets to successful parenting. Mystery, yes, And here’s the big difference.
A secret assumes an answer; a mystery knows there isn’t one—ever.
You probably have plenty of examples–I have heard beautiful ones from the parents I coach— I share two of the hundreds of mysteries from my own parenting two sons to functioning adulthood:
In 9th grade older son didn’t make the “select” basketball team. He was, of course, crushed. My husband and I could see this coming. He was good, but not that good. By 7th grade, we knew it was only a matter of time he would be cut. No high school varsity basketball in his future. We didn’t tell him or nix his enthusiasm. This was a lesson in letting go and letting child take the reins and see where he led us. On the day he came home in tears, slamming his bedroom door as he told me, I approached with caution.
Within his 6 foot 2 inch bulk, I saw the shattered little boy soul and my heart did flip-flops—what to say? What to say?
I didn’t sugarcoat or deny reality. I commiserated on how hard this must be for him. Then something jumped out of my mouth—it’s a mystery where it came from:
“No matter what happens to you, you are still you!”
He stopped crying, slowly looked up at me, his eyes gleaming with renewed confidence, “Thank you Mom for that. Thank you so much.”
Now where that came from is a mystery, too. Believe me, it wasn’t the usual way he talked to me. The entire encounter ended as upbeat as it could under the circumstances. And to this day, I still shake my head in wonder at the power inherent in our parental presence.
As early as 3 months, I noticed my younger son reached out to touch my hand. So I took his. He reached out to steady himself when he was teaching himself to walk (and being uber independent, this was a mystery, for sure).
I soon realized that holding his hand when we crossed a street or taking it gently during errands, prevented bad moods and meltdowns. As he grew, he high fived me for hand-to-hand contact, a quick and age-appropriate check-in. It was a mystery to me why he did this or why it worked so well to help calm him or re-connect with him. But I relished in it.
I considered a potential source: After birth he was placed under bilirubin lights for 24 hours. His dad and I each held one tiny hand for long intervals. Could that have been the reason? Maybe…but not a secret to be unlocked by a parenting expert on a high horse—rather a mystery to be observed by attentive parents.
If there is any big secret to parenting that we all need to shout from the rooftops for every mom and dad to hear, it’s this:
There are no secrets, no easy answers, no quick fixes for parenting well. There is, though, being in the process of life with our children—the process of loving them, being available for them, and helping them grow into their best selves minute by minute.
And it’s in that messy, sometimes grueling, often joyous, process we activate our parental power, hopefully wise enough to cherish all the mysteries along the way.