Waking to Grow Up - Blog Posts

Making a New Playbook

Across my mind is the embossed goal of being a perfect parent. I wanted to be the very best I could be, and that involved adhering to some core Principles. I also had to study parenting and work very very hard at all times to succeed at:

  • Being fun
  • Not being my Mother
  • Being caring
  • Not being my Mother
  • Being Loving
  • Not being my Mother

As you may have noticed, there was a recurring theme. This is not because my Mother was a terrible mother, she wasn’t. Her skills as a seamstress, cake maker, director and all around “Ladies Home Journal” Mother were legendary. I had neatly divided the pros and cons of her parenting over the 10 months of growing my baby, I wanted to be the very best parent I could be and that involved being more fun, caring and loving than I had patterned from my Mum.

Needless to say, my developmental stage at that point was totally locked into Expert moving into early Achiever, where I wanted to be the best I could be. I had read every possible book, and by the time my baby was born I was ready to make some choices and implement those strategies that seemed the most effective. Of course…I also worried all the time that as a single young parent I would be judged by the world, including my Mother. Consequently, as well as the goals of connection with my new baby (which became the bottom of my list of priorities), I added a series of image based behaviours. These were designed to prove to the world and my family, that I was DEFINITELY taking care of her properly:

  • Never let her have a tantrum or cry too much in public 
  • Always make sure she looks neat and tidy 
  • Teach her to say “please” and “thank you”
  • Provide her with food that was healthy and tasty, no matter the cost
  • Supply her with toys, books, games, opportunities for learning
  • Work as hard as I could to make us enough money to do all the prior things!

Like an evil fairy waving her wand over the first five years of her life, these image based parenting goals lodged a range of emotional and relationship timebombs into her psyche. Each and every one of these were taken from my Mother’s playbook, and they crept into the top of the priority list without me even noticing. 

  • In the process of obsessing about her appearance I gave her the gift of self judgement
  • In teaching her to suppress her emotions in public she learnt to distrust her body and feelings in preference to being “calm”
  • In my determination to provide, I gave her less love and connection then she needed and made her hungry for any attention
  • In offering her every opportunity to be followed up on, I took away her joy of learning and replaced it with expectation
  • In suppressing my own needs and emotions, I put distance in our relationship

Fortunately, my own development was challenged by my amazing child and her honest love and connection. I soon realised what was happening and added self reflection and emotional honesty as new priorities. I would never pretend to her. I would be honest about my feelings. I would not expect her to fulfill my emotional needs. 

Once these entered my practice as a parent, I began the process of Awakening and seeing that the most important principles, as evidenced in research after research, is – authentic connection through responsiveness, emotional wellbeing for both of us, and a focus on our relationship as more important than any “thing” that I could give her. 

I left the “I” for my own work and allowed parenting to be about building a healthy “We”.

When working your way through your parenting goals, remember that through parenting your own child inside and integrating all the parts of yourself, you can be the authentic and connected parent you want to be. In the one moment of connection where your child sees the love shining in your eyes when they are doing nothing but breathing joy, you are being the perfect parent. The parent who accepts the child in them, because you accept the one inside of you. 

Le, B. M., & Impett, E. A. (2019). Parenting goal pursuit is linked to emotional well-being, relationship quality, and responsiveness. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 36(3), 879–904.