I thought parenting would be easy. Learning about young children and teaching in the field of Early Childhood Education was my passion. The key to parenting was to provide unconditional love, and a sense of safety, with structure and limits–and then of course, I would have happy and healthy children. The reality of parenting humbled me.
The first big challenge was my infant daughter’s daily crying spells. Hazel would begin crying in the early evening and wouldn’t stop for several hours. I didn’t understand why nursing, or rocking, or singing, or swaddling, or shushing, or any of the other endless things we tried, wouldn’t comfort her. Was something really wrong, or was she just overwhelmed by too much sensory input in a world full of bright lights and loud sounds?
The crying jags stopped after a few months, but the parenting challenges continued. Then we had a second child, Wes, and he had his own challenges. Sleeping, potty training, friendships, school, mental health, screen time, and food choices–all would present struggles. When family life seemed chaotic and uncertain, I felt like a failure.
A book that really helped me explore new ways of being a parent was Nurturing the Soul of Your Family by Renée Peterson Trudeau. I began to realize that fearing others’ judgements, and the long-term consequences of my parenting choices, was not helpful. I needed to open my heart, be present, and accept each moment as it is.
Instead of resisting conflict, I needed to see that family is part of our lives to teach us; to help us grow and evolve. I had to shift my perspective and let go of my ego, and honor each person’s need to be heard, know that we matter and that we belong. Trudeau also recommends:
- Self-care. You love and nurture the best in yourself so can you give that to others.
- Healing. Being centered and calm models of self-regulation for our children means finding ways to begin the process of healing our own traumas.
- Nature. Science has proven that being in nature is a powerful anti-depressant. For me and my family, it is also a way to tap into spirituality and the oneness of life.
- Spiritual renewal. Breńe Brown defines spirituality as “recognizing and celebrating that we are all inextricably connected to each other by a power greater than us.” Share whatever that is for you with your children.
Parenting is truly the hardest job on the planet. I have to remind myself that I have the power to bring happiness and peace into parenting by being present and responsive. When I am flexible and forgiving, and focus on love and connection, I can recognize the gift of family life. My prayer for our community is that we can all find ways to nurture the souls of our families.