Dear Strong Mom,
You have just articulated a fear that resides in most parents’ hearts and minds: I’m afraid I will mess up my kids, really bad. As parents, we all come to accept the reality that we will make some mistakes. After all, we are not perfect, and there is no manual describing how to raise our exact child at this exact time. We practice the art of parenting through trial and error, leaps of faith, and holding our best intentions in mind. Each day presents a new opportunity to learn something new about our child, our personal triggers, and yes, even our neurosis. And despite our best attempts, we cannot 100% guarantee that our children will grow up to be happy, well-adjusted adults. We spend all day striving for a goal that we will never be able to assure formally. At the heart of the dilemma you’ve presented above is your premise: To believe that you will mess your children up, you must first believe that it’s your job NOT to mess them up. Or to put this into an idiom that most parents can relate to: You believe it is your job is to create happy children that grow into happy adults.
If we believe that as parents, our job is to make our children happy, we will do all the things that we think might eventuate their happiness:
If our job is to make our kids happy, we will stop at nothing to achieve that goal.We martyr ourselves in an effort to guarantee we don’t “mess our kids up.”
This game is rigged. We can’t control the way our children feel, no matter how hard we try. It was never your job to make them happy. Therefore you cannot, objectively, make them unhappy.
As long as you continue to believe that you have the power to make or break your children, you are playing a rigged game: One where the winner takes nothing, and the loser takes endless self-blame and shame. Either way, you lose.
So consider this an invitation to release yourself from the job of controlling your child’s emotional life.
Here is your formal invitation to release yourself from the job of controlling your child’s future adult-self.
It will take time to “undo” the belief that “you will mess your children up.”That’s okay. For now, recognize it when it comes up for you (and it will come up in many different forms). When you see it, remind yourself that you do not have to feel responsible for your child’s emotional life.
So by now, you are probably wondering, “if I’m not supposed to make my child happy, then what the hell am I supposed to do as a parent?”
The answer may surprise you. Or it may not.
Your job is to make YOU happy.
We teach by example.
To summarize the answer to your question:
You are exactly where you are meant to be, momma.
This dilemma you are experiencing is a gift.
I hope you will receive it with love and a renewed commitment to the pursuit of your OWN happiness.