I’m not sure when it was that I first felt like a parent. I don’t think it was during pregnancy. I think the feeling settled in sometime after she was born and I was feeding and changing this small person, my daughter.
At the time, being a parent was about the relationships between the two of us. This often idyllic, sometimes confusing relationship between her and I was how I defined parenthood.
Our twosome soon expanded. Not by plan or design, but in time. We joined other children and parents at playgroups, at the park, at the library, etc. I came to know other children and care for them and their parents.
My definition of parenthood was being rewritten.
In the first years, I seldom meet other parents that thought like I did. I proudly wore my decisions and efforts as a parent like a badge of gentle parenting. I was quick to see differences and to write off others for their parenting decisions, until one play date with the “anti-me.” I realized that I was reserving that gentleness that I kept for my daughter for only other like-minded parents, instead of all parents.
Comrades. My friend Michelle sometimes calls us parents “comrades” in e-mails. This is the perfect reminder that we, as parents, are all in this together.
Committing to gentle, respectful, deliberate, intentional parenting – or however you refer to it – means embracing principles and applying them broadly to humanity, not just your child. Ideas like respect, listening, and encouragement are avenues to building relationships with our children because we see them as people. Why, then, is it so much more challenging to extend these practices to other adults?
Abusive parenting aside, there are few parenting decisions that really cause a great divide between other parents and I. We may not feed our children the same way or discipline them using the same principles, but I’ve come to learn that parents whom I have encountered negotiate their decisions the same as I do.
There are parenting principles that I hold dear, but most of these decisions are not more important to me than the parent behind them.
Our relationships as parents are broader than those between ourselves and our children. To truly cultivate authentic children, they must see in us that which we expect of them.