If there were one message I could send back to my younger self it would be this one:
You can’t ensure your life will turn out how you plan.
Every time I talk to a parent on the phone, every home I visit, I discover a recurring theme. Parents assume that they are not hitting a mark other parents are hitting. They believe that the struggles they have are being avoided successfully by other parents.
Yet every day, we hear evidence that that is, in fact, not true! The families most stringently attached to a specific model of loving and learning often fall the furthest, which then shocks us!
As my aunt (ethics professor) says, “Idealists are shocked a lot in life.”
No system saves you, no methodology protects you.
We are most sane and satisfied when we pay attention to the details of our current daily lives—not projecting ahead anxiously, not looking backward with regret.
What I mean is this: be more interested in the evidence presenting itself to you right before your eyes than in the strategy you believe will create the life you want. If your child is cranky and bored, wondering why the methods you trusted aren’t creating a happy creative child is not where to start. Blaming the child for not cooperating with the system you trusted is not useful.
Start with the child—what relieves and helps this child in this moment today? Open the possibilities wide—wider than the system or method or strategy that you expected to deliver “boredom free children.”
Avoid shame and blame.
Get with reality. Attend to today.
Pay attention to the people around you and consult them. Let them teach you what they need. Be open to being wrong and learning a new way—this one specific way for this one specific person in this one specific moment.
Be true to who you are, too! When you are relaxed and comfortable in your own skin and home, you are more able to trust that your family and life will teach you how to live together.
When tragedy strikes—that horrible thing that you didn’t count on—know that this isn’t the final sentence in your story. Your family may not have the happily ever after you counted on—it may instead develop resilience, depth, and perspective…and heart! (Psst: every family has tragedy they didn’t count on.)
You’ll be a comfort to others (aka: everyone) who go through the rapids and need a vision of what it means to hold on and survive.
The easiest way forward in your thirties is to attach to a system to help you navigate life (a kind of “life vision insurance plan”). The first thing you discard in your forties is the system that failed you!
So if you want a little tip to help you now—trust YOURSELF. You know more than you give yourself credit for… and what you know and are open to learn is more than enough to have a life that creates good in the world, and meaningful memories for all of you.