I believe in Parent Education. One of the biggest myths is that parenting comes naturally, it is simply second nature, and really anyone can be a parent. As a parent educator I was often told that the only people that need parent education are those parents who beat their children. Parent Education is only for “those” kinds of parents.
I believe that every parent needs support and education because parenting is one of the most important ways we can contribute to the future…building healthy and caring children. We live in a society that underestimates the energy necessary to build healthy children and overestimates the value of supplying chidren with “stuff” instead of “time”…time to be with their parent.
The advice I give most is, “Remember parenting is just one big lifelong interruption and then you’ll be ok.” Henri Nouwen spoke about this while giving a talk about his teaching at Harvard. He was in his office trying to get work done and students kept coming in and interrupting his work. He tried to be responsive but underneath felt frustration building and the need to answer as quickly as he could so he could get back to his own work. After many days of this kind of frustration, he came to a big picture view of his work. he realized that interruptions WERE his work. This movement from frustration to perspective is a big picture leap. Imagine what it would be like to be one of his students now.
This is exactly what I believe needs to happen for most parents. The transition to parenting takes time and when we become parents we must realize and accept that life is changed forever and we will forever be interrupted. Otherwise we will constantly feel an underlying frustration of “Now, what do you want? Can’t you see I am busy!”
In WHEN THE BOUGH BREAKS, Sylvia Ann Hewlett compares the traits needed to succeed in a career versus those needed in parenting.
Career: Long hours, often alone, in the office
Parenting: Time together as a family
Career: Commitment to oneself
Parenting: Commitment to another
Parenting: A tolerance of chaos
Career: A take-control attitude
Parenting: A willingness to let go
Career: A goal-oriented approach
Parenting: An ability to tie the same pair of shoelaces 29 times with patience and good humor.
In order for parents to make this big picture leap they need support and education. Parents need a place to talk freely without judgment with other parents, and a place that gives them a cuddle group for sharing all the developmentally correct behaviors that are normal for children and are most often very challenging for parents. Parent education is taking the need for a village seriously and prividing it with intention.
I believe that when parents get this kind of support and can learn to view children’s interruptions as opportunities for moments of connection, no matter what you may be doing, no matter what time of day or night, no matter what age the child, then they will have made a leap that will serve them well through their entire parenting journey. Healthy children are built on small ordinary everyday connections, with adults, one connection at a time. And healthy parents welcome that opportunity.
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