Just over one year ago I asked the question in this blog, where is the parenting manual? And in this past year as my son moves through middle school, puberty, and all the joys that go along with that age, I’ve asked this question over and over again and unfortunately come no closer to answer.
However, I’m making progress in understanding parenting challenges (at least that is what I’m telling myself).
I’ve used this example over and over with my son when I see him frustrated by the mistakes he is making and learning from. I ask him what a baby would do if while learning to walk he never got up when he fell down? After I get his seemingly obligatory answer under his breath that the baby would never learn to walk, I can only hope that the repetitive message will sink in.
Parenting on its surface is not unlike a baby learning to walk or any other skill we learn. It involves lots of mistakes that we hopefully learn from and apply to future experiences. However, after 12 1/2 years of parenting (and still feeling like a newbie most of the time), it’s recently become clear why parenting is so challenging.
To use my overused example, when a baby falls, and with most mistakes we make, there is instant feedback. The baby thinks (in baby talk of course) I shouldn’t try to take a step with both feet at the same time. Or, we instantly understand we shouldn’t touch that burner on the stove when it is glowing red.
But with parenting, in many cases, its different. For the advice, counsel, punishment, support, freedom, etc, etc that I give my son today, I may not know the consequences of that action for days, months or even years. Which of course doesn’t help much when I’m trying to figure out how to handle the next challenging parenting scenario.
And so as parents we stumble along hoping that our parenting methods are working while not really knowing right away if what we are saying is having an effect.
What makes it all worth it? Those glimmers of feedback we receive that show even one thing we said has helped our children in some way, far outweigh all the challenges we experience.