What is a successful parent?
Updated: Mar 9
Parenting is such an important, all-consuming, 24/7 job that it takes all of our energy and mental space. If we strive to be excellent parents, we find ourselves spending endless hours doing something regarding parenting. Something like:
Working a job to support our family (and get them ice cream)
Cooking and preparing meals (and scooping the ice cream)
Setting up playdates
Finding activities in the city to expose our child to art and culture
Staying in touch with grandparents, cousins, neighbors to maintain our community
Shopping for the best clothes, strollers, development tools with the best value - and all over again at every stage of our child’s growth
Going to the playground to exercise
… and oh yeah, doing all the stuff it takes to maintain our own bodies and brains so we can continue to offer our children the best support possible!
And that is ALL so essential and wonderful. It takes hard work to be excellent parents. Heck, it takes hard work to be adequate parents. Sometimes, we find ourselves applying the same principles and efforts we use to do things like:
Research a job or prepare for an interview
Plan a trip or search for best value
Go out to dinner or entertainment
Implement a fitness or meal plan
All these efforts can be emotionally exhausting and energy-draining. We push ourselves in parenting the way we push ourselves to succeed in other parts of our lives. And then often, we expect that “success” to look the same way in our child’s behavior or achievements. But - and get this - much of the effort it takes to grow a child is the exact opposite of all that busyness you would expect with any other endeavor. It takes a lot of slowing down and going with the flow to raise a child. Let’s take a look at some moments that can be truly magical if you let yourself stop worrying about progress or perfection.
Looking at your child’s face and smiling ...for, like, hours!
Talking to your child about how they are and how you are
Describing what you’re doing to your child, like “I am scooping the ice cream so we can make sundaes before watching Scooby Doo” (Do kids still watch Scooby Doo? Kids should still watch Scooby Doo).
Listening to quiet music together
Observing your child as they play, naming the objects and describing what they’re doing like, “I see that you are putting the red block on the green one. I wonder if it will stay balanced and not fall down…”
Singing songs throughout the day. Try one to the tune of Def Leppard’s “Photograph,” maybe.
Telling bedtime stories
Napping with them and catch a little bit of the blissful rest they fall into
Making a book of their drawings and looking at them together
Taking pictures of their creations and posting them on the wall as conversation pieces
These moments not only allow you to enjoy your child, but they can also create moments that they will remember, either directly or subconsciously. They will remember that you tossed a ball with them one morning for a really long time more than the perfect stroller. They will remember that you looked them in the eye one breakfast and described the taste of all the fruits in a bowl while making silly faces more than the homemade organic pureed potatoes that took you an hour to make.
You and your child could use a break or five from a perfect, curated life, or at least all the energy you spend on trying to create one. Because let’s be real, after all this, do you have it? The perfection you’re striving for? Probably not. And that’s cool. That’s great, even. Celebrate by lying down on the floor and crawling around with them. Run around in circles, dance under a tree, jump in some leaves, make sandcastles on the beach for an entire afternoon. Live your child’s childhood with them instead of managing it. Get to know who your child is instead of making sure they do the right thing all the time. Believe me, their growth will go so fast. You don’t want to miss it.