Who me? You listenin’ to me?
Why should anyone listen to me about parenting?
I’m credible because of my professional and personal histories of observing parents in action. I spent my legal career working with families and children and my personal life raising a couple of children of my own in a community filled with children. I’ve not just watched other parents’ behaviors, but I’ve also observed how those behaviors impacted children. And in many cases, I did not like what I was witnessing.
The Legal Element
Unlike most of the parenting columns that talk about parenting, my perspective grew from many years of legal experience with parents who had not done well raising their kids. In many of my cases, those parents had lost their children to the foster care and juvenile justice systems. My work was to understand what went wrong with the parents in those families, and how those errors and behaviors created threats to their kids.
In other cases, my work involved helping divided families develop and maintain relationships with each other despite divorce, distance, and cultural barriers. In those cases, too, I watched as parents made choices that weren’t in their children’s best interest, then watched the children suffer as a result.
Each case I had added another layer of comprehension about what makes a bad parent different from a good one. Or, conversely, each case revealed the distinctions between good parents and bad parents, between poor parents who could become better parents and those who would never understand the nature of their parenting dysfunction.
I also learned a lot about child development and how early childhood experiences impact that child’s brain, body, and future. There have been thousands of studies made over the decades that discuss childhood development issues, and their integrity is often enhanced (or discredited) by today’s technologically honed research. Consequently, I based my understanding of how and why children grow into happy adults on my legal experience coupled with both foundational and cutting edge science.
The Personal Element
But my work hasn’t been my only lab. My own two children are in their twenties now, and both are remarkably successful adults. They both left home at age 18 to establish themselves in the industries of their choosing, and they’ve both found amazing work in the career communities they love. They’ve found friends, jobs, social and professional connections, and stability in their world, all while living healthy, happy, ethical lives. I can’t be more proud of who they are, and I attribute much of their success to their innate personalities and abilities.
But I also credit myself and their father (my husband of 31+ years) for our contributions to the good people our children have become. As a parenting team, we took different courses in our approach to each child, our son (the oldest) and daughter (two years younger). On some days, I was the good cop; on others, I was the bad cop. Mostly I was cook/maid/chauffeur while he was coach/sherpa/ATM. Neither of us scolded our kids, nor were they spanked or shamed for any of their activities or behaviors. Instead, we focused on the life lessons they were learning every day and encouraged them to remember those lessons as they launched into their next adventure.
Most importantly, my parenting skills and philosophy developed as I invested more time and attention to the craft of parenting. I didn’t come into the job with any unique insight or capacity; in fact, especially at the beginning, while I was never sure exactly what TO do, I was really confident in what NOT to do. And it appears that most of my choices (gambles?) were good ones and that my early inexperience hasn’t tainted my two (that I can see).
The Future Element
So today, I’m looking at my children and their young-adult friends, knowing that their parenting ‘careers’ are about to start. AND I’m reading online a variety of ‘parenting’ blogs and articles, looking for something or someone who I believe can offer them honest, high-quality insights about how to raise a happy adult. So far, I’ve not had much luck in my search.
Many of the web-based ‘experts’ (in my opinion) fail to see the bigger picture of the overarching ‘parenting role.’ Instead, they offer trite and tiny tidbits of what to do at any given moment. My challenge with them is there’s no direction on what to do after that particular moment has passed. Nor do they often discuss how to avoid that moment in the first place.
Others seem to have no idea what they’re talking about, and I wonder how much experience they’ve had actually in the company of children, let alone the research they did to come to their particular (peculiar) conclusions.
All seem to miss the fact that ‘parenting’ isn’t a momentary event, but a 25-year adventure, and that every one of those 25 years is relevant to the decisions being made on any given day. My philosophy is to know that that premise is true and ‘parent’ accordingly.
I find I have a great desire to offer tomorrow’s parents the best skills and knowledge available to raise their own little bundles of joy. I’m using my history and experience as my foundation and my children as evidence of my success. I’ve developed a strategy about how to parent — and why to make some parenting decisions versus others — that might help all those young people make better choices than they would without my input.
This series will roll out that strategy.