Parenting! A trending topic, indeed. But, how has it earned this enviable status? It’s probably because of the hassles of raising children in the frenzied modern-day living environment prompted by changing family norms, more women at work, the unnerving influence of media and technology, and much more.
Parenting surely is a serious business (pun intended!), what with umpteen books, articles, workshops, seminars, websites, magazines, videos, courses and so on. Each designed to guide and assist parents…there’s enough and more on how to be a good, effective and nurturing parent.
But, hey, stop right there! Are we not all good parents? Or, are we not good enough? Need I be a perfect parent? Or, a more skilful one, or a super parent, or…the list is endless. Not to mention various parenting theories, practices, or the mind-boggling styles of parenting – mindful, intentional, tiger, positive, attachment, unconditional, spiritual, slow, narcissistic, toxic, helicopter…whew! Overwhelming, isn’t it? I know what you’re thinking. “Can’t I just be A Parent, without the tags please?" They take away the joy of being a parent, make us worry about everything we say and do with our kids, make us feel guilty and confused, and send us into an analysis overdrive.
So, how do we make parenting a joyful experience, despite the transformations provoked by modern-day living?
Here’s a different deal. Trash the labels and reframe your focus. How about being ‘The best parent you can be’? Well, that’s a thought, isn’t it? But first, let’s get the serious stuff done with and out of the way. For starters, it’s only fair that we acknowledge the great deal of respectful scientific research that underlies all the authentic information on parenting. That will be our safe ‘go-to’ place when the unpredictable annoyances of parenting throw up strange surprises or deal an unfair bolt from the blue.
The real deal (hold your breath!) is an almost magical path to experiencing the joys of parenting. All it takes is a shift. So, how about rearranging our vision from 'Perfect Parents' to 'Perfect Parenting Moments'? Zap! A word of caution, though! Not to parent perfectly, but to grab those perfect moments that are brimming with the best of happy emotions, chief among them being pride, hope, courage, peace, confidence, awe, and joy.
Life is imperfect, but can there be perfect moments? Sure, especially if they have these signature qualities – the unexpected and an element of surprise, the split-second spontaneity, an emotional high and a divine sense of fulfilment.
So, how does one define perfect parenting moments? Do they really exist? You bet they do…in the most unexpected situations, and in the most hard-to-notice, puzzling of times. Until you stop, feel and cherish the experience.
Sounds like too much of an effort? Yes, it does takes practice to look beyond what we are so used to – larger-than-life images, the dramatic and the sensational. We miss being in the moment when the subtle, simple, pure, magical little things happen every day. You can make it happen with a simple game called 'Catch'!
- Catch your child’s expression. A quiet smile, a beaming face or a mischievous grin. His brain is releasing feel-good chemicals like dopamine, endorphins and serotonin. His smile is an open invitation to enter his world and share those moments with him. And, be quick to respond. I am reminded of the lines from a song of yesteryear. “A smile is such a funny thing, it wrinkles up your face, and when it’s gone, you’ll never find its secret hiding place…”
- Catch your child’s comments. Amusing and captivating words escape her mouth. Feel the pride and pleasure as you marvel at how she is learning and testing her language and communication skills. Totally delightful!
- Catch your child’s eye. Even a momentary glance sends messages of recognition, understanding and empathy. The eyes convey the truth, capture the emotion, and build an instant connection. Perfectly truthful moments that build trust between you and your child.
- Catch your child’s touch. It could be subtle and soft like a gentle, compassionate touch; or, straightforward and strong, like a big hug. Seize the moment of a touch to bond with your child. Both of you will profit from its emotional and healing powers.
- Catch your child’s thoughtful gesture. From help in its simplest form, to doing something to make you feel better, to sharing a treasure with you (think stones and leaves!), to standing up for you. There could be no greater joy than knowing your child values you so very much.
- Catch your child’s action. Especially when it shows responsibility, caring or kindness. It’s your reward for how you are raising and training him. Relish the thrill when he finally performs a task entirely on his own and proves his growing independence and abilities.
- Catch the fun moments. Laughter and humour are what fill your home with enjoyment and gaiety. These super stress busters teach us to laugh at ourselves and yet be sensitive to others' feelings.
- Catch your child’s good deeds. They are living proof of the values you are imparting. You know that unparalleled feeling when you can say, “I did something right!” It’s the gratifying contentment you feel, especially when you have been going hammer and tongs at it. And then, one day, out of the blue, she actually does it. Mission accomplished!
These are but a few examples of perfect moments. Your family has its unique brand of perfect moments that hold special meaning and significance for you. Claim them! Celebrate them! Bring back the joy of parenting.
“There are no perfect parents, and there are no perfect children, but there are plenty of perfect moments along the way.” – Dave Willis (davewillis.org)
Arundhati Swamy is a counsellor and the Head of Parent Engagement Programs at ParentCircle.
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