Parenting Uncertainty

Uncertainty is reality.
– Dr. Robert L. Leahy (author of The Worry Cure)

Reality continues to ruin my life.
– Bill Watterson (creator of Calvin and Hobbes)

 
I used to daydream about morphing my two kids into one so that I could have the perfect child.

Kid #1 Kid #2
Athletic, stays in shape Couch potato, loves to recline
Painfully slow-to-warm Can work a room like a pro
Skeptical to a fault Will give anybody a chance
Kind and caring Would pull the plug in a minute

See what I mean? Mix and match. Perfection!

Okay, that was fantasy. In reality, I would repeatedly ask myself: What can I do to guarantee my children’s futures as happy, independent, responsible adults? Can I somehow defrost the painfully slow-to-warm kid? How will I get the “recliner” to at least stand upright?

Eventually, it dawned on me that I could not really change my children and that there are no guarantees in parenting. In fact, parenting is teeming with, steeped in, overflowing with uncertainty.

And that uncertainty cost me a lot of sleep. I’d toss and turn in bed ruminating on the fate of the “unsociable” one: This kid will always be alone, never have any friends, become a hermit up in the mountains with a Gandalf beard and Howard Hughes fingernails. I was a little worried.

Worried, but determined! For example, I gently nudged the slow-to-warm child to join a favorite sports club; I invited friends over as much as possible; and, we literally practiced the fine art of small talk.

I worked just as hard with the “recliner.” I bought a membership to the “Y,” suggested going on walks together, riding bikes, and insisted on swimming lessons. I took Zumba, yoga, and Tai chi classes myself to be a good role model. I tried, I really, really tried!

Now for the good news: 20 years later, the “unsociable” one is hosting a bachelor party this summer at his house for his best friend (he’s also a groomsman in the friend’s wedding). Ta da! Sociable!

And the “couch potato?” Like magic, she does yoga regularly and recently joined a kickboxing class!

What did I learn?

  • You can’t really change your children’s traits, but you can help them enhance their strong points and encourage them to improve their not-so-strong points.
  • Parenting is a long, rocky road. There’s plenty of time; don’t give up!
  • All kids are different. Don’t compare yours to other people’s or even your own kids to each other.
  • Even though there are no guarantees, keep plugging along making the best decisions you can at the time. With support and encouragement, your child will likely find his way.
  • Sometimes your best efforts don’t pay off, but at least you will always know you tried. (Caveat: often they do pay off!)

Remember, parenting means you live with much uncertainty. And that’s called reality.

By Claire Gawinowicz, Certified Parenting Educator
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