So I promised to tell you the secret to bringing up a child successfully. Today’s the day. Mostly.
More than a decade ago, when the kids were all still pretty young, I had lunch with our dear Aunt Louise and spent a good chunk of our time verbally up-chucking the parental panic attack of the day: how do I ensure that I make the correct decisions when it comes to raising the children?
See, before acquiring any I had a plan: when at a fork in the road of the parental journey I will always take the correct path – the one that is best for the child – instead of the easy or selfish one. Poof! Perfect kid!
Once a parent, however, I soon found out:
- Rarely are parental paths clearly marked. At times I would come to that fork in the road, look down to where each path would eventually lead, and see the City of Doom at the end of both. For example, I have friends who complain that they have a horrible work ethic because their parents were strict and friends who say they have the same problem because their parents weren’t. Fantastic. Now what?
- There are often more than two paths to choose from. So many, in fact, that some parents sit at the fork instead of venturing down any of them…which I can tell you from experience is the most dangerous choice of all.
- It’s not that black and white. Sometimes, the best thing you can do for your child is apply a strategy that is selfish and/or easy for you.
Anyway, I’m bewailing all of this to Aunt Louise – the woman who logged about 20 years with Child Social Services – and she gives me the secret to raising a great kid. Please excuse the following paraphrase (it’s been about 15 years, after all).
She says, “Jamie, I’ve seen lots of parents who did everything ‘right’ with kids that grew into walking disasters and parents who made countless mistakes whose kids turned out great. The difference? The kids who turned out great knew they were loved.”
Huh. So apparently John Lennon was a parental genius.
All you need is love (all together now)
All you need is love (everybody)
All you need is love…love…love is all you need
But what does this mean? Pretty much every parent, even the really nasty abusive ones, will say that they love their child, and I’m sure they do in the have-a-special-place-in-my-heart-for-my-kid sort of way. But that isn’t the kind of love she was really talking about.
So what is love? Is it affection? A warm, fuzzy feeling? No, because it is very possible to love your kids without them knowing it. Which is we we’re going to spend the next few weeks defining parental love. Spoiler: it’s a lot of work!
Love, Older Wiser You