What does it mean to be the best parent for your kids?

Photo Credit: Suzy Hazelwood

Photo Credit: Suzy Hazelwood

I have been talking about conscious parenting both publicly and within my family conversations for the past several years. I believe I have always practiced being a conscious parent, but I first understood the term itself and felt it aligned with the way I was parenting our five kids after reading The Conscious Parent by Dr. Shefali Tsabary in 2014.

I have been curious about what my parenting has meant to the adult children in my life, so while the oldest three boys were home for Thanksgiving weekend I decided I wanted to ask each of them some questions about their perception and experience around the way they were parented. There is value in understanding my adult children’s point of view of my parenting practice as I continue through the teen years with Mia (13) and Maddux (15). I know I will continue to talk with them and other young adults as I begin writing a book on the practice of parenting with intention.

The videos of each interview range from 5-10 minutes in length. Truth be told, I could have talked with Nick, Allen-Michael, and Brigham much longer because I had more questions, but they’d all been so kind as to immediately agree to be videotaped with me that I didn’t want to push it.

Under each video are additional comments and reflection about the content.

A little background about my relationship with Nick (for those who may not be aware)…he came into my life just shy of my 19th birthday, shortly after I finished my freshman year in college. I had a very upper-middle-class upbringing and getting pregnant forced me to grow up really quickly. When I made the decision to raise Nick, I was asked to leave my family home. I lived on welfare until I could afford to make ends meet with full-time secretarial work, my mom taking care of Nick so I could do that, and support from Nick’s dad.

His dad and I stayed together for the first few years of Nick’s life, but our relationship was very unhealthy and it eventually ended. This forced Nick to go between two very different households for the remainder of his childhood. While I believe Nick’s dad loved him very much, he was fighting a personal battle that often led to abuse of our son. Nick hid this well, and though I cannot go back and change anything about his experience, I value Nick’s honesty in telling me that I could have tried harder to get him to share more about his weekly visits with his dad. In hindsight I recognize it always took 2-3 days for Nick to readjust to being home with us, and to this day I don’t know the extent of what he experienced physically or mentally while in his dad’s care. His dad passed away in 2010 at the age of forty-two and Nick has done a lot of self-work to move forward past his childhood experience and use of alcohol to self-medicate. Though I didn’t know how difficult his teen years were, I do know I often bragged to my friends about how close I felt our relationship was. We have always been close. In many ways we grew up together. Today Nick is sober, married, and happy in the life he and his wife have built together. Nick and I have a very open, easy-going relationship that I treasure.

Allen-Michael and I have enjoyed many deep conversations in his adulthood. At twenty-five his faith (which has actively developed over the past decade) has led him to travel both the country and the world sharing his love of God and Catholicism with hundreds of young people. He is now in his first year of seminary. It’s interesting because at a time when his faith-life was growing in one direction (in the tradition we…admittedly inconsistently…imparted on him during his childhood), mine has taken a complete shift into a deeper belief and development in a spiritual relationship with God that has nothing to do with religion or church practices. The beautiful thing about this is that we both choose to focus on what we agree on (God exists/there is something larger than ourselves going on/we are an extension of God called upon to serve others) rather than the beliefs we don’t share. While (to be brutally honest) I may not have chosen this path for him, it is not about me. The calling he is following is a good example of releasing our need to have control over our children and their outcomes. The kids who came through me will live out their greatest purpose to the best of their ability and my primary role is to appreciate and support them in that endeavor. I know that if Allen-Michael continues through seminary he will one day make a faithful father to many people. It’s a gift to watch him continue to unfold into a gentle yet strong young man.

Brigham (20, a junior in college) has blessed me and our family so often with his free-spirit…he was the most hesitant to answer my questions without knowing what they were first. Brigham has always wanted to know as much as possible before things happen. This phase of parenting, during the college years, can be be most challenging (based on my perspective having parented for three decades through all phases). It’s really a time when what you’ve worked to model and instill comes through in your child’s actions. Brigham works diligently at everything he does, but at the same time, he’s also very go-with-the flow. There are a lot of moments when anxiety about a choice he might make could hamper our relationship if I chose to defer to fear (breeding disconnection between he and I) instead of holding space for any choice he makes because I understand I am not in control of, responsible for, nor do I want to get in the way of his learning for himself the lessons life is willing to teach him.

It is in our greatest challenges that we grow as human beings.

I believe, and have been outspoken about in many ways over the past few years, raising children is our greatest calling and it needs to evolve from one where the emphasis is on teaching and controlling kids to a place where our role is to guide them by learning who it is they are as we parent WITH them. Putting structure and boundaries in place while giving them lots of choices to discover who they are. I believe a mutually respectful friendship is the end goal when they are independent adults. When and if my kids decide to have children of their own, I’d like them to want me to be a part of their kids lives, not out of obligation but because they love and respect the person I have been throughout their lives.

Parenting is about growing you while raising them (hmmm…sounds like the title of a book…), for me this includes choosing to start and stay involved in conversations that may be difficult in order to develop better connections with my kids, it means making my own physical/emotional/spiritual life a priority so I can be emotionally present for others, and it means speaking out and getting involved in the world wherever I can to bring awareness to the importance of parenting with intention.

If I can be of service to you in navigating the parent/child relationship(s) in your life, please email me through this site or text me at 972-689-0250.