I am the parent of two wonderful young adults. It’s crazy just how quickly time has gone by since they were the infants I could cradle in my arms. A lifetime for them has gone by, which constitutes only a part of my lifetime.
Babies don’t come with instructions. We do the best that we can with what we have to work with. I do believe I really lucked out with my children, and my approach to child rearing. I didn’t discover my style or formula in a book. I didn’t learn it from watching others, because I don’t know of anyone else who parents quite like me. I just did what felt natural. I’ve gotten some questioning looks along the way, for sure. For me though, the proof is in how I feel about my kids, and how they feel about me. I know that they’ve appreciated the style of free choice parenting that I have chosen to use throughout their lives. At some moments I know it’s easier to recognize for them than others. I also know that when they’ve stretched past the teenage and young adult years they will appreciate it even more as they are able to look back on this time and really understand the depth of what went on.
I see many parents that are controlling the every move of their kids. I don’t find that healthy. I doubt that most kids need that much structure, and rigid adherence to rules that seem to change based on the control needed to be exerted by the parent at any given time. That seems to be a parent not in control of enough in their own life that needs to feel better by displacing that energy onto someone who does have to listen to them at every turn.
I see many parents that focus on things that I don’t feel are important to a successful childhood. How they dress when they leave the house, how clean they keep their room, which chair they sit on at dinner, when they play with certain toys, which foods they eat for dinner, where they are at every moment of the day being accounted for, and what activities are deemed parent appropriate (studying all weekend instead of being given time to debrief from the week’s events and play), and more.
They key to raising kids that are self sufficient, can make decisions for themselves, are well rounded and kind, is to offer an environment that will allow them to explore the world. At first their exploration is from the safety net of their home environment. Later, because they have practiced the skills all along, the transition to adult that makes great choices is only natural.
I was recently reminded through a conversation with my son that my parenting style is appreciated. His idea during a discussion on a long car ride to grandma’s house during the holidays was that we co-author a book. He feels that together he and I can change the parenting institution by sharing what we know, the first half of the book from my perspective, and the second half from his. It’s in those moments that I know I’m doing a great job, with great kids, and a future that is so bright and full of promise.