First comes love, then comes failure: Finding my confidence as a parent
My first baby experience was unusually great. My oldest child slept well early on and ate like a champ. (Don’t tune me out here, there’s a but coming.) I remember sitting in my mom’s group with a bunch of first-time, sleep deprived moms as they lamented their baby or toddler difficulties. And I couldn’t relate. As the other kids beat each other on the head with toys and drew on the walls, my daughter snuggled in my lap, content.
And so I gave myself a big gold star.
I must have read the right books. Either that, or I’m a natural. This baby thing is so good. I was oozing confidence.
(I know. I know.)
And then my baby got older. And she wouldn’t play on the playground with other children. She toddled around and climbed, having a great time, until another chubby two year old showed up, and she would make an immediate beeline for me. Scary human approaching. Must evacuate.
Oh no. She’s not well behaved, she’s just…afraid of little children. Hmm, that puts a different spin on things.
And then we had a miracle, second child.
And there was a distinct “Oh crap” feeling to the whole adjustment. This one’s not like the other one. This one doesn’t know she’s supposed to sleep when I go “sh sh sh” and rock her side to side. This one is not the Happiest Baby on the Block. I felt like a giant spool of thread unwinding.
So, not so good of a mom. Not really a natural. Not knowing at all what to do. Burning the books. Bad books!
Parents Under Pressure
There is unparalleled pressure in our culture to know things as parents, to figure it all out. We long to feel confident about our choices. That’s why we read the child rearing and psychology and personality books. We want to unlock the keys to doing our lives right and raising our children correctly, ideally in a way that suits their individual needs.
By the way, our parents did not put this kind of pressure on themselves. I’m not knocking them. They did the best they could. They were just more content with the one size fits all approach.
But our culture is demanding a much higher level of sophistication from us. We are trying to produce rock star children, who are highly cultured, athletic and spiritual, and have a varied palette, but only for organic food. The list of things we are supposed to be doing is ever-expanding.
Can we ever feel really confident about our parenting choices? Even though it’s the opposite of what our successful-looking mom friend is doing? Even though we misstep? Even though our baby still won’t sleep through the night?
What is Confidence Really?
We see confident parents and assume they just wake up that way and nothing rattles them. When in fact, confidence is the way we act much more than who we are.
Confidence comes from the latin word “confidentia” which means “firmly trusting.” I think confidence has a lot more to do with faith than it does with assurance.
Confidence as a parent looks a lot like holding your head high while you try really hard. It’s trusting you are doing the best for your kids, not knowing for sure how it will turn out. It’s assuming you will find a way through your parenting challenges, even though you may unintentionally take the longest path to get there.
I realize that mustering up confidence like this is much easier said than done. But my point is that people who act confident don’t always feel confident. Sometimes confidence is just faking it until your feelings agree with you.
It’s So Out of my Hands
After so much research and reconfiguring in my early years of parenting, I came to the conclusion that I was never going to figure it out. That so much of my children’s outcomes are beyond my control. I shape them, but there is a lot of hardwiring and genetics to contend with. Not to mention, they make choices of their own.
It was humbling. Sobering.
I don’t think I’m right anymore. I don’t think I know what’s best for you and your kids. I don’t often know what’s best for mine. I know that I mess up and that I need so much grace and community support in order to raise my children well.
I could feel very discouraged about this scenario.
But letting go of trying to control everything with my kids really set me free, to accept them where they are at, and to accept myself where I am at in my parenting.
Choosing confidence in my parenting gives me peace. It keeps me from being swept away by every new parenting fad or waffling on my decisions. It enables me to evaluate what needs to change in me without beating myself up. I’m choosing to firmly trust that I’m doing the best for my child and that I am enough.
What Can You Be Confident About?
You can be confident that you are the best parent for your kids.
You can be confident that you will persevere and find a way through your current challenges.
You can be confident there will be new challenges around the corner. And that’s okay too.
Choose the confidence like you chose your outfit each morning. And when it slips off your shoulder and shows your bra, just slip it right back on.