After nearly losing a child, I find that my approach to raising her and her siblings has completely changed. I learned so much about how to parent from her. This is what I’ve learned:
Protect your children at ALL costs.
I shouldn’t have to explain this one. You were given your child as a gift. Protect him or her with your body, your claws, your words, your very soul. That is your child, and you are that child’s only line of defense in this world. You are their advocate at school, with the doctors, with everyone. And you know that child better than anyone under this sun. So if your gut is telling you something is wrong, FOLLOW IT. And yell to the powers that be until someone listens to you.
Don’t push your kids into specific careers or colleges.
I used to have these expectations about what my kids would be and where they would go to school. Would they be engineers? Study physics? Sophie’s cancer taught me the value of her happiness, not her financial or societal success. Now I just want them to be happy, regardless of whether they are engineers or piano-tuners. I have learned to value not what they do and it’s place in the hierarchy of what society values, but to value their smiles and their ability to sleep through the night. I am proud of their ability to choose for themselves.
Let your kids feel free to express who they are without judgment.
If they want blue hair or tattoos, I’m game so long as they are smart about it. Hair grows back. Tattoos should be done at a licensed shop by a licensed artist and they need to want the same tattoo for more than a year and it should be hideable, so they won’t regret it. They should be safe about it, but they should be able to express what’s inside without fear of your response. Sometimes the scars we carry aren’t on our skin, and we need to express where we’ve been and how we feel in some physical manifestation. I won’t be there to always guide them. But I can provide them with enough information to make a smart choice to keep themselves safe and not interfere with what they want out of their lives. Otherwise, they should feel free to be who they are, without judgement, and with love and acceptance.
NEVER demand that they be competitive.
Don’t force your kids to participate in competitions. Be it over grades or sports. Where they rank in life shouldn’t be what matters to their happiness. While a child needs to learn to lose gracefully, they can do that in daily life without forcing them into sports or other competitions they don’t want to participate in. We can teach our children grace in losing in most everything they do at school, from who gets to lead the line to who gets to go first in a song. And they will be competitive in life by being good at what they do, not by pitting themselves against the people around them. That just makes for a lack of friends and miserable work conditions.
Accept them, no matter what they do or where they land.
This isn’t about them expressing themselves, but about them being who they are and doing what they want in life. We are lucky to have these children. Trust me on that. If they end up growing into someone we can’t understand or that we don’t agree with, do not judge them or otherwise let them think for half a second that you don’t love them. This does not mean to accept drug use or other abusive behavior, but outside of that, they should have your acceptance. And if they have those issues, you should be willing to jump through flaming hoops to help them.
Seek their happiness, regardless of what that means.
This runs the gambit, from accepting a tattoo to accepting who they love. No exceptions to this rule. When you have a child, it is your job as the parent to love them. There is no choice. You don’t get to choose when you love your child, and wishing them happiness is a part of love. You don’t get to cut off being a parent because you don’t like something they do. This isn’t an “if it fits my schedule” or an “if it fits my religious beliefs” thing. This is a “that’s my child, and I love him/her. Period.” thing.
Maybe it’s not orthodox parenting. Maybe it’s not going to serve my children in their career success. I’m definitely not the perfect mom. I’m more protective over my children’s emotional and physical safety because I have PTSD. I can’t handle their pain in any form. That’s not something to judge me for. But this is what nearly losing Sophie has done to my parenting. You don’t have to agree. You can call me a helicopter mom (but look up the term first). You can think that I’m going to raise lazy, slow children that aren’t contributing adults, but I can think of a number of parents that are doing worse than me. Parenting is a personal choice. Anyways, I can think of a few adults that came from worse homes than mine that have a measure of happiness. While where you come from does not measure where your child will go in life, being taught love and acceptance as children will help them in the future. My love and acceptance might provide my children with the strength to fight for their own happiness. And that’s all I can pray for in the long run, isn’t it?