Q: What do a Wubble Ball, a coffee pot and anything
that requires batteries have in common?
A: A user’s guide
You know, that little number-and-picture-filled pamphlet that comes with everything we own.
It seems the only thing lacking that handy-dandy-how-to-guide is our children!
Wouldn’t it be amazing if a wise, half-magical individual gently escorted us out of the maternity unit (while we are awkwardly holding our tightly-swaddled baby wearing that pink and blue striped beanie) … and this genie-like-person handed us a booklet that told us exactly what the heck to do once we walked out the hospital door?
All of our problems solved.
Sorry, back to reality. Our kids, the most important and complex puzzle of all, come with no instructions. Yes, we have our “instincts,” our “mother’s intuition” and countless google searches, but nothing concrete and foolproof to show us how all of these complicated parts of raising a human being even begin to fit together!
Last year while on a “panel of experts” I was asked a really mind-spinning and thought-provoking question that absolutely stumped me: “If you were to write an instruction manual for raising kids, what would be the three most important chapters?”
My instinctive response is that this instruction manual would be about a gazillion pages long and written like a choose-your-own-adventure series … if he decides to talk back, turn to page 227, if he decides to listen turn to page 394 …
And in true Jackie fashion I’ve been thinking about that question ever since. And here’s what I’ve come up with as the three most important chapters of my instruction manual for your child …
Chapter 1: All about the CHILD
First, forget everything that you think you know about being a parent.
What worked for you will most likely not work best for this child. Sorry to deflate your confidence, but sometimes a blank slate is an easier place to start. This is a unique little human with his/her own desires, motivators, triggers, quirks, challenges and gifts.
You have been blessed with the opportunity to get to know this innocent little person on the truest of all levels. Tune in, pay attention, help her own her unique gifts. Teach her to leverage them to be the best version of herself.
There is no right or wrong way to raise a child, no matter what the “parenting trends” might have you believe. In fact, there are millions of ways to do it “right,” but the best way is the way that fits your unique child.
Chapter 2: All about the PARENT
Parenting is overwhelming.
And, it’s also the most amazing gift and biggest responsibility we are given.
Our world turns upside down (or sideways at a minimum) the moment we meet this tiny little person and know our entire purpose has now shifted to ensure we raise this toothless, helpless, dependent and vulnerable little human into an autonomous, kind and responsible adult. It’s crazy!
This chapter is all about going easy on ourselves. Trusting our intuition. Ignoring the judgements (whether from others or in our own head). Taking time to breath, to sleep, to enjoy being a grown-up, to nurture friendships and our marriages. To notice the inevitable (and sometimes smothering) guilt, but then let it go – because we are all trying to figure it out with no user’s guide.
Chapter 3: All about the COMBO
So now we take the pieces of you (child) and the pieces of me (parent) and we have created a one-of-a-kind dynamic of “us.” This “us” (according my instruction manual) is essential when we are trying to fit so many complex pieces together to create this masterpiece of a “final product.”
Parenting is not just about the kids, and it’s not just about how you decide to parent, it’s about the truly magical combination of the two.
Not to overuse the term, but when you “lean-in” to the relationship and embrace (okay, maybe just accept) all of the inevitable question marks, setbacks, speed bumps and celebrations, you can model the empathy, patience and strength it takes to show up and be a parent – every single day.
So, in the first draft of my instruction manual, I would encourage you to look at the whole picture and try not to get overwhelmed by all of the complicated parts that don’t quite make sense and can get extremely overwhelming.
I would ask that you tune-out the background noise and tune-in to your unique child.
I would advise you to give yourself some grace and acknowledge that you do not have all the answers, nor does anyone else. I would recommend you lean-in to the relationship, your unique and special dynamic that no one else knows quite like you two do.
I would ask you to recognize that there is no instruction guide because NO ONE knows how to raise your child perfectly. It’s never been done before. So your best IS good enough. In fact, it’s “just right.”
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