Hindsight is 20/20.
And even though I’m not done raising these great teenage boys (or making new mistakes) there are mistakes I made that I can see from my past that didn’t help to serve my parenting, myself, or my kids.
If I can spare you this on your journey, I would love to!
Here we go…
Mistake #1: I Was Insecure
Parenting is fraught with four basic (hard) elements: Guilt, worry, fear, and insecurity. It’s just the real deal. You’ll worry about your kids and their friends — or not having friends; you’ll be afraid something is going to happen to them, you’ll feel guilty when they’re unhappy with your decisions and when they slam the door to their room or their soul on you.
It just happens.
And you will feel insecure.
Why? Because it’s all new. Seriously all freaking new and you’re always finding your sea legs. Always.
And if, in any way, you’ve come from an unhealthy, dysfunctional, or abusive home and were not shown how to raise a family in peace, then you’re going to be in that situation many find themselves: Knowing what you DON’T want to do but not really knowing WHAT to do to have what you DO want.
So, for some of us, it can be insecurity x 1000.
I think that I’ve had a uniquely high self-doubt about me as a person during certain seasons — so even as brave, daring, adventurous, and risk-taking as I am to start new businesses, step on a stage in front of thousands, travel around our country or to another land, or shift to something uncharted and new; the truth is that insecurity has been a fairly steady bedfellow.
In parenting, I chose a pretty unconventional life: choosing to travel with my kids, educating them between some hybrid of homeschooling/worldschooling/unschooling and Waldorf. We chose to feed them certain ways against society’s grain and discipline them with words and not hands, without television or even their own phones (still) and all of that brought many a night of lying in bed checking in — and checking in again.
I think if I had to do it all over again, I would have told myself:
“There are a million great ways to be a parent and not just one. The boys will be fine, you’re doing a good job, no one will do any of this perfectly; just do it with love and with heart and with a clear intention for their goodness — and you’ll course-correct wherever you need to. It’s all good. Just choose the direction you’re in and that will make it right; because the power isn’t in the perfect parenting, it’s in choosing it and moving forward. Enjoy this big, experimental ride!”
Mistake #2 I Kept Unsupportive Family Too Close
So, here’s the real deal: When you’re parenting, support is sooooo beneficial. That tribal nature in us is to have the wisdom, perspective, time, and helping hands of others around during the exhausting, mundane, mind-numbing, whatever times – to buoy you up as a parent and to support you in raising the future of the kiddos.
Whether it’s that family member sharing their parenting experience to offer wisdom, or making a meal when you’ve been a work-at-home/raise-kids-at-home mom, or watching the kiddo so you can have a nap… all of that feels like love and support to a tired, weary, mom.
But what isn’t so helpful is when you have family members who judge you and show up in your life occasionally and choose that rare opportunity to come close just so you can hear their criticisms more clearly.
That’s not really helpful.
It’s also not helpful when you have such unhealthy/unhealed family members and they want to take out their unhealth on you — taking the time and energy of you that is really needed for your kids.
Those long emails and discussions about family dynamics can become a black hole of distraction and exhaustion when you’re a parent. Something that is NOT needed or helpful when you have small kids who need you present.
In an effort to have family around and to hopefully have us all share in the experience of our new parenthood, I sometimes allowed unsupportive, critical, and judgmental family members too close, too often.
The thing is this: If you’ve been around my boys, you know they’re extraordinary — extraordinarily kind, loving, helpful, present, talented, and wise.
Because we raised them that way.
Even though family members criticized us for not having a TV (one family member told me I was damaging my children by not allowing them to watch The Three Stooges. Seriously.)
And criticized us for feeding our kids organic.
And criticized us for our open spirituality.
And criticized us for our unique approaches to education.
And that we chose to travel across the country and internationally with them.
And on and on….
(Because the truth is that critical, judgmental people will find anything to criticize and judge you about.)
So, we backed off and put family at arm’s length. My husband and I said, “Fine. If all you’re bringing is your negativity, we’re not going to have that influence our boys’ lives. If you’re not responsible when you’re near to us, then, we will be responsible and create distance between us.”
And even though we didn’t talk down about anyone in the family, our children started coming to us and asking when they were little, “Why is so-and-so mean to you? Why do you keep being nice to people who aren’t nice to you?”
As early as 5 they noticed and would ask.
My boys became wise enough to know that they don’t want to be around those family members who were critical and harsh with their parents. They know two things:
1. If you mistreat my parents, you don’t get to be with me. They are a part of me. You can’t respect me and disrespect them.
2. If you were willing to mistreat my parents, you could do that to me too and that’s not cool –I’m not a fool. You revealed your behavior and I am not blind to what you were showing me.
My boys know that family doesn’t have to be about a shared bloodline — it’s about who honors and respects who they are as people. They have many friends who are closer than ‘family’ because those friends treated them with more consistent care and respect.
If I had to do it all over again, I would have said more clearly and sooner to certain family members,
“I love you, family, and I would love to have you part of this wonderful rollercoaster ride of parenting. But if you cannot be loving, supportive, question-asking instead of judgment-making — if you are going to, in any way, take away my energy and time while dealing with your unhealthy bullshit — instead of being part of raising these awesome boys, then, we will be pressing the ‘pause and space’ button between us. These boys are our priorities. You are already raised. You have felt needs for my attention; my boys have real needs for my attention. If you need to make this all about you and your opinions, you will have to write them in your journal because I am not listening to your diatribe on me as a parent. If you can’t support me in the process of this child-raising effort, you can’t be part of the joyful results of this child-raising effort. Period.”
Mistake #3: Not Knowing the Value of My Time and Energy
To piggy-back on Mistake #2, I had this idea that if you loved someone you spent all the time and energy you could with them.
But I learned something really valuable at a certain point: Unhealthy or needy/controlling family members or friends would take as much time as you were willing to give.
I finally learned, after having so much time donated into fruitless directions, this truth:
I have unlimited love.
My heartspace is big. I could love, energetically, all 7 billion people on the planet. Love has no limits. I can feel good about everyone and feel connected to everyone,
And the truth also is:
I am in human form.
Within the bounds of human time.
I have 24 hours in my day and skin on my bones.
That means that as infinite as my love is, my time and energy are not.
They are finite.
I have unlimited love
And I have limited time and energy.
So, I had to wake up and realize that I had to prioritize where I spent my time and energy.
That’s it. Or at least, that was first.
Then, my joyful social interactions after that. And THEN, after THOSE, I would consider if in my remaining time I wanted to wrestle the alligators of the unhealthy dynamics with family or friends.
After making a significant effort toward people in my life, I realized that I had a few people in my circle who lived in their own personal chaos and wanted to bring me into it as another player in their craziness. It took time, but once I realized that I could love someone in my heart, but that I had to choose where I spent the better part of my time, I just made a clear choice and walked away.
Once we are clear on what we are a “Yes” to; we also get clear on our “No”.
Yes, I have time and energy for my health, family, business, and personal growth and goodness.
No, I don’t have time for chaos and unhealthy relationships.
When I became clearer, my family and health were served better.
I’ll share more mistakes next week….
Thanks for joining me in this parenting series. I’m so grateful to share the messy stuff to help shortcut you to greater ease on any part of your life, health, or parenting journey.