Monday, August 30, 2010

The Univeral Parenting Manual

I am about to write something that is pretty personal to me, and frankly I hesitate to share it.
But I am going to because I think I just learned something important and I want to share it with those of you who are or in the future find yourselves in this boat I’m in. For me this is a liberating and humbling lesson I needed to learn.
There is a moment before something important happens. A big life change, usually one I chose to make.
That moment when everything stops around me and a big scary voice says, “what in the world do you think you are doing? You can’t possibly do this. You are an idiot.”
Since becoming a parent I’ve heard this voice a lot.
The day Isabelle came home with us.
The day Buddy came home.
The day Xander came home.
The night before I started cloth diapering.
The day I started my baby carrier business and the day I signed the papers to sell it.
The week before the babywearing conference I organized this year.
And many other times.
That big scary voice was there each time, terrifying me. Telling me flat out that I was going to fail and it was all my fault; Filling me with a paralyzing uncertaincy; overwhelming me with self doubt.
Occasionally that big scary voice hasn’t been an inner voice, but the voice of someone else, a critic, a stranger or even a friend or family member.  
One particularly rough outside voice told me this year that I was “damaged” as a person and a parent and essentially that I was going to ruin my kids. This was over a choice in religion and child safety that was difficult to make, so difficult, but ultimately correct.
The outer voices are sometimes harder on me than the inner voice because that inner voice is still there but gets so much louder and stronger when the outer voices chime in.  When a living breathing person tells you that you are an idiot (maybe not in those words, but in their own special way) it completely knocks the wind out of you.
The moment before you step of the ledge and are suddenly convinced you will not fly, but fall.
I had that moment late last night. I was just about to fall asleep when I heard that voice in my head. It said, “you are so stupid to think you can home school your child. You are going to fail. Sleep tight!”
Then behind it I remembered so many hurtful things that have been said to and about me as a person and as a parent this year, from people I once considered friends and now consider people I need to show compassion to from a distance. That previously mentioned outer voice that told me I would ruin my kids was in there shouting away in this chorus of angry, judgemental, mocking voices that were telling me I could not do this.
It was a good thing Sambo was downstairs so he didn’t have to see me have that complete moment of panic that followed, because it wasn’t pretty. Luckily I was more vain than terrified so I regained my composure before he wandered upstairs to hang out. (Sometimes vanity is a good thing).
As I composed myself I let out a quick prayer that I would muddle through this obvious mistake I was about to make.
Then it happened.
I didn’t see it for what it was until today (which is no surprise as I often miss the obvious), but it is the reason I slept so beautifully last night and woke up so happy this morning.
The Universal Parenting Manual was dropped into my lap.
It is a short read, but a good one.
And I have permission to share.
It says one thing:
Welcome to parenthood. You’re on your own kid.
But, then when you squint you see the fine print at the bottom of the page:
But you aren’t alone. Call with questions anytime.

This morning I woke up, ate, we did our first day of school at home (see the other post for the details on that please), did lunch, put the littlest heathen down for his nap and while the older kids watched a show I took some time to myself to let it all sink in.
We all walk a different road as parents. Some conventional, some less so. That part doesn’t matter.
 The big moments will be different for all of us, but no less terrifying.  When we hit those terrifying moments when the voices start to drown everything else out there is only one thing to do: keep walking until we leave those voices behind. They can’t hurt us unless we allow them too and they certainly aren’t right. NO ONE can tell us how to raise our kids. It isn’t their job or privledge and to be blunt it really isn’t any of their business. In  those big  moments we’re on our own, but never entirely alone.
I look back at all those scary moments I listed at the beginning of this post when the big, bad inner and outer voices have tried to pull me down with them and now see I missed that quiet voice that came a little while after I had walked past the scariness. That quiet, reassuring voice that says everytime, “you did it. You were right and you are doing a good job. Keep going, I’ll be here when you need me.”
How do I miss that voice so often?
Today I didn’t.
I heard it, only this time it said, “why don’t you tell others what you learned so maybe they will be smarter than you and learn this sooner.”
I never said the reassuring voice lacked sarcasm.
So, here I am. My house is peaceful, my kids are happy. Today was a big day and it went well. Another big choice down my personal parenting path. This road isn’t for all of us, but it isn’t supposed to be.
And the voices? I can’t hear them anymore. I’m sure they are out in the ether somewhere shouting in vain, and that is fine. They aren’t my burden to carry anymore and boy is it easier to fly of that ledge without the extra weight.
Do yourself a favor. Quit doubting yourself as a parent. Are you trying your best? Then you are doing fine. Know that and keep on walking. Tell other parents, don’t keep the secret to yourself.
Let’s all make an effort, when we ARE an outer voice to another parent, to be a reassuring one that lifts that other parent up instead of paralyzing them and filling them with self doubt. I think we all know that there is plenty of that already in the world.
We are all on our own as parents.
But we aren’t entirely alone.
Today is a good day.


  1. Thank you for this. I doubt myself all the time and it needs to stop.

  2. You rock, Kimber. And you're right. I try to tell people this all the time. If you can't trust the voice inside you telling you to do what you think is best, who the heck can you trust? Tell those other voices, the naysayers, whomever they may be, to shut the heck up. They're not helpful. You're an awesome mom, and your kids are super lucky to have you.

  3. It's no fun to deal with others thinking less of us when we know the choice is right, but at least in quiet moments that peace can come to all of us :-) Thanks for sharing!