I’m not sure where I saw it, I think it was Facebook. They wanted to know what your “parenting motto” was. I immediately started thinking of anything amusing, and I envisioned putting it on a coat of arms or banner, like “Semper Fi”, “Don’t Tread on Me”, or “Winter is Coming”.
But the more I looked at it, the more I thought…this is actually a good idea. Businesses do it to stay on track. They come up with mission statements. What is the philosophy of this business? What is the motto? What is the goal? When your business strays from that mission statement, then you use it as a guidepost to swing you back on the right path. So what sorts of statements do I want to make that guide my approach to parenting.
- Leave Everything Better Than You Found It?
- Hakuna Matata?
- Lassez Faire?
- Stay the Course?
- Do No Harm?
- A Thousand Points of Light?
So this year, what’s my parenting motto? Ultimately, I want it to be something that I can think about when I get off track. Just keep swimming? Celebrate the little things?
My wife and I have always applied the philosophy of…”chop off the peaks and use them to fill in the valleys”. We say it all the time when some hiccup in our daughter’s behavior or development comes up, recalling something else that she just did that exceeded our expectations (or her own). What it has always meant to us is that we really need to focus on the positives. The celebrations that buoy our strength when we’re stressed out are tempered when things are going well, remember how quickly the other shoe can drop. So we try to stay grounded. We try to recognize that a small success, though worthy of celebration, is just that, a small success. It’s something that we can use to create more successes or to remember our “happy place” when things aren’t going well.
It feels like a small betrayal to guard our hearts that way though: not going overboard on the successes. It feels like we’re holding something back. And maybe we are. And maybe we need to in order to maintain our sanity, because an entire school week of no potty accidents might be punctuated by a weekend of five.
Ultimately no single motto will ever be able to encompass the full breadth of a parent’s responsibilities and philosophies with regard to his child. But I took a stab at a corporate-style mission statement. In no particular order:
- I will love my children unconditionally
- I will celebrate their successes regardless of how “small”.
- I will do whatever I can to allow my children the greatest chance at health, happiness, success, and self esteem.
- I will provide an atmosphere of love/safety/acceptance in my home.
- I will encourage and support their interests.
And I think that when I struggle as a parent, I need to return to this list, this “mission statement” and ask myself how whatever it is that I’m doing is serving the interests of that list. And if what I’m doing is NOT consistent with the rules I’ve set for myself in the list, then I need to really think about changing my approach.
What would you add to your list? How do you keep yourself focused on what’s best for your children?