What Makes You a Good Parent?
Straight A student, star of the swim team, kind to others and all around great kid. When you see this girls parents you most likely say, “You must be so proud.” But what happens when those same parents have a son who gets suspended from school, has several F’s on his report card, and is really having a rough time. Do you also say to this parent, “You must be so proud?”
If I take credit for my kids great behavior, I also get to take credit for their bad behavior. And I must say that’s not so appealing. What if I take no credit for the good or the bad?
There’s an old fable that goes something like this. A man was standing on a hill pushing a gigantic boulder up the hill. He struggled and worked, the heat of the day growing, his muscles straining. But the boulder was so large that no matter how hard the man pushed or how long he struggled, the boulder didn’t budge.
About that time, the devil appears and asks him, “What are you doing pushing that rock?”
The man takes a moment to wipe his brow and replies,”God told me to push the rock up the hill.”
“How’s that going for you?” asked the devil.
The man looked at his progress and realized he hadn’t moved the rock at all. “Hmm, not great. I don’t think it’s moved at all.”
“Well then why are still pushing the rock?” said the devil.
The man thought and thought. “I don’t know.” And so he stopped and asked God, “Why did you ask me to push this rock up the hill? It’s impossible and I’ve made no progress at all. It’s been a huge waste of time and I’m exhausted.”
God smiles and in a kind and quiet voice tells the man,”I never asked you to move the rock, I only asked you to push.”
Are you judging your parenting based on moving the rock when you were only asked to push?
What do you think makes a good parent? If you tell yourself that a good parent has kids who make the bed, are kind to their little sister, always picks up their toys, gets straight A’s, is polite to adults…the list could go on and on…then the only way to know if you are doing a good job is based on the result-or the rock moving.
But what if your job as a parent isn’t to control the outcome of your parenting but just to be the best parent you can possibly be? Let go of the result and focus only on the effort. Keep pushing on the rock, not because you need the rock to move but because your job is simply to push the rock.
What does it look like to just push the rock?
For me, pushing the rock means cooking healthy meals and snacks. Pushing the rock doesn’t mean that my son always chooses to eat healthy food.
Pushing the rock means I model honest behavior. Pushing the rock doesn’t mean that my daughters never tells a lie.
Pushing the rock means I set up family laws and responsibilities. Pushing the rock doesn’t mean that my kids never break the rules or try to get out of their chores.
Pushing the rock, or being a good mom, means that I don’t expect my kids to give me my sense of self or pride. When my son does something awesome, rather than saying “I’m so proud of you” I can say “You must feel so happy”.
When my kid makes a less than fabulous choice, rather than saying “I’m so disappointed in you” I can say “You must be so sad”. I am trying so hard to let them own their decisions and the consequences, good and bad.
When I let go of being accountable for their behavior and instead hold myself responsible for being the very best parent I can be, then my only job as a parent is to love my kids. And their only job is to be in my life so I can love them.
Try that one on again-your kids only job is to be there so you can love them. They don’t have to perform like a trained monkey, be the best student in class or win prom queen to ‘earn’ our love. They only have to BE and we only have to love them.
I feel so liberated by that thought, and I see my kids differently when I think that thought. When they are crazy, disobedient, make bad choices big or small, or smack their little sister, I can see them through the eyes of love and still be madly in love with them.
I still have to bite my tongue to not take credit when my kids do something incredible, and I’m working on eliminating shame when they mess up in, especially in a hugely public way. Every time I make the choice to push on the rock by reading a story and tucking them in at night instead of just sending them to bed, and every time I push the rock by putting down my phone or computer and giving them my full attention magic happens. I am able to be more fully in love with them and also feel more love for myself. Letting go of moving the rock means getting more-more acceptance for my job as a mom, and more forgiveness for their weaknesses and mine.
Stop trying to move the rock. Your only job is to push.