Sunday, November 8, 2009

Tips on being a parent (from someone who isn't)

The toughest job in the world has got to be being a parent.

The first time this became clear to me I was around fourteen. A friend and I were talking about the completely dysfunctional, often clueless, downright weird things mothers and fathers do. In monotone and with her gaze fixed on the horizon, she confided what hers had inflicted upon her. “My parents love each other so much that I always come in second”.

That’s when it hit me – no matter what you do, you’re going to screw up your kids. (My hope is that you find this oddly liberating.)

In the past few weeks, for a variety of reasons related more to their circumstances than to my experience, friends have asked my opinion in matters of parenting, specifically as it relates to divorce. I thought I’d put together my list of top four amateur recommendations (I repeat, “amateur”. To be perfectly clear I’m not only not a professional; I’m not even a parent.)

1. Don’t make decisions based on what is good for your children. Make decisions based on what is good for you. (This doesn’t mean “completely disregard what is important to them". It means “put yourself first, them immediately second.”) I know this sounds unforgivably selfish. But kids learn by example. Teach them to be happy by being happy rather than exposing them to parents who are always torn, confused, angry or resentful. (Don’t know if you should be a stay at home mom or go back to work? Should you stay in your marriage for your kids? See above.)

2. Examine what is driving the choices you are making. Is it love or is it guilt? If the force is guilt, don’t do it. Guilt is corrosive and nothing good ever comes of it.

3. Change is good. It feels terrible and scary and confusing and nobody really likes it, but it’s quite possibly the only thing in life that you can be certain you’ll get a lot of. So many (wonderful, loving) parents strive to raise their children in a Stable Environment. I ask you – how can a kid become a person resilient to change is all they have ever known is stability? I’m not saying, “please mess up their lives”. I’m saying that if you mess up yours and feel you’re dragging them along for the ride, they will be OK.

4. Be honest. Maybe don’t be explicit, but do tell the truth. If your 8 year old walks in on the immediate aftermath of a screaming, raging fight and asks wide-eyed “what’s going on?” and your reply is “oh, absolutely nothing, honey, everything is peachy! ” you’re not protecting her. You’re teaching her that she can’t trust the most basic, most fundamental of all navigation tools: her own intuition.

Besides, kids know everything. Every. Thing. They might not fully understand it, or be able to articulate it, but they know. They know you have secrets, that you hide things from them, even that sometimes you’d love to get away from them. They don’t tell you that they know because they are trying to protect you too.



888 said...


Carol Miller said...

This blog, actually "block", finally allowed my comment. I think whatever Dushka writes about she phrases so well that a book MUST be in the offing. All the material is stashed in this computer, waiting and ready to go. I will be first in line at the book signing. Why waste so much talent, wisdom, humor, poetry, diversity and wit on a blog? Let's get her out there.

Anonymous said...

Wise words come from open & observing minds. The only real parenting School i have heard of is being there yourself as a son or a daughter; a father or a Mother. Dushka has Probably Been Son AND Daughter to more then her biological parents, I too belive she has been also Mother AND Father to most of her brothers and sisters in certain and diferent times, so When she presents us with these "Tips on being a parent (from someone who isn't)" I believe it is her humble way of not saying she know exactly what she is talking about, as always!

A memory came to my mind 0f Keanu Reeves (in The movie Parenthood) stating that everyone needs a licence to drive or to be a Dr. But no licence is required to be a parent...