I am regularly caught by surprise by parenthood. Sometimes, my brain just kicks in, and I’m just sitting there thinking, “Did I just do that?” Sometimes it’s awesome. Every once in a while, you just have to be able to stop trying so hard.
Yesterday was one of those days. Quietly coaching the Boy about apologies after he ran into the Girl’s ankle with a shopping cart. Giving pep-talks about parenting to my wife. Holding the girl while I tell her that I will love her, no matter what. I was sitting there, one arm around a smiling child, telling her something important, and suddenly she just says, “If we keep talking about this, I’ll get upset.” I said, “Okay,” and we moved on.
It was about a whole minute before it occurred to me that I had good-parented. I hadn’t tried to fix it. I didn’t grill her for an explanation. I accepted what she told me and moved on. Eur-fucking-reka! She knew what she was doing. She was trusting me, and I held up my end of the bargain.
I will love you no matter what.
That’s the only bargain you can make with your kids. The only promise you can keep forever. The only thing you can base a literal lifetime of relationship on. Unconditional love is the purest form of generosity, and the challenge is to smother the person in it so perfectly that they just get it.
For you, anything.
That’s the key. Validation, acceptance, and forgiveness are keys to the vault of children’s hearts. Accept them, and don’t make them clarify everything. When they do something nice, thank them. If they are asked to do it again later, and balk, thank them for considering it, and move on. There’s the bridge. Right there.
Don’t try to figure out your kids. You will drive yourself mad. Let them explore how to people. Let them figure out how they feel about things. Let them change their minds, and let them be confused. Most importantly, let yourself be confused, and realize that it’s okay! Kids are weird, and that’s not changing.
Love yourself. Love your kids. Forgive yourself. Forgive your kids. Pretty much works with anybody, but today, I’m thinking about the kids.