Is there a right way to be a parent?
Is there a right way to be a parent?

The longer I parent, the less I know.  I don’t mean in the eyes of my teens, although that is certainly also true. (My all knowing son helpfully advised me this week that I’d be happier if I worried less.  The alliterative irony that the sage was also the subject of my worry was apparently lost on him.)  What I mean is that I am far less certain of the right answers than I used to be.  You wouldn’t think it would be this way, would you?  I’m used to working hard, finding The Right Way, and then mastering it.  It hasn’t happen that way with parenting.

The problem with parenting (actually, there are quite a few) is that we are parenting in the present, but we won’t know if we’re doing it “right” until we are no longer actively engaged in the process.  That’s a mighty long feedback loop, especially for someone who thrives on immediacy.  Not to go all zen on you, but I’m beginning to suspect that the journey of parenting is what’s important, not the guarantee at the end destination.

And while I can sit cross legged and hum the mantra “journey trumps the destination” with the best of them, I wouldn’t mind finding success when I reach the end.  But how, exactly, are we suppose to measure success?  College educated?  Six figure income?  “Giving back” to society?  Church attendance?  Not in therapy?  In therapy?  I have no idea.  Not to sound whiny, but how can I possibly succeed when success is undefined?

Another problem with parenting is that just when you find The Right Way (TRW), everything changes.  What works for one, doesn’t always work for another.  Sometimes, what works for one, doesn’t work for that same one the next day.  And to compound the problem, I keep changing.  I am not the same person I was 10 years ago, or even 5 years ago.  What I thought was TRW back then is not necessarily what feels right today.  How can I possibly master this parenting business when all the key components to success keep changing?!?

My grandmother used to say that the proof was in the pudding.  My four puddings are still in the oven, so proof of whether they’ve set up just right is still a long way away.  I pray that they will all someday be reasonably happy, kind, and self supporting.  (Which of the three qualities I’m praying for the most depends on the day—today I’m leaning towards self supporting.)  I’m banking on the theory that if you lower your standards enough you’re bound to succeed.

Image credit: FOTOLOCO!