So you want to be a parent? Cool, cool. Let’s sit down and talk.
The first thing you need to accept is that parenting is not about you. Yep. Read that again. Say it out loud. Parenting is not about you.
Parenting is about the children. See, without them, you’re not parents. You’re adults. It takes having a certain responsibility to a child to make you a parent. Parenting is about the child. The next thing you need to accept is that the idea you have of what parents and children look like is a false dream and you should trash it.
Now, you’ll nod your head and smile and insist that you totally absolutely do understand your parenting style and maybe you’re already in the midst of parenting other children but you’re going to need to trash the idea that any children you add to your family are going to mold around your current parenting style.
Every child will need the same basic things from you: Safety, Comfort, Food, Boundaries, Respect but each and every one of your children will demand these in different ways.
What constitutes safe for one child will be smothering to another.
What passes as comforting for one child might trigger another.
Accept that your kid might not squeal with glee when they see goldfish crackers.
Boundaries need to be firm and flexible. Respect needs to be a non negotiable constant from every parent to every child and should not be dependent on ANY variable. You are not offering your child conditional love, do not offer them conditional respect.
Stop looking for “the perfect child”. Just stop.
There is a drastic difference between knowing your parenting limitations and choosing to overlook the fact that children are living, breathing, people who are worthy of life and love and that their worth has exactly zero correlation with their ability, past, future prognosis, physical attributes, sex, gender, or developmental capabilities.
“But she will look differen,” you whine. “I can’t imagine parenting a child who looks different.” And I hear it. Heather and Stan, you are a middle aged white couple looking at the file of a two year old boy from CHINA. He is going to LOOK DIFFERENT no matter what. Are you really concerned about this child and his life in this instance or are you more concerned that your yearly Christmas card is going to be marred by the face of a disabled person because your answer here is VERY IMPORTANT.
Everyone looking for “the perfect child” needs to accept that the only perfect child to walk this earth might have been Jesus and even he had parents. If you can’t imagine parenting a child with blindness, or autism, or limb differences, or apraxia, or gender dysphoria, just try and imagine parenting a child who disappeared for days to discuss the bible with scholars, continually sassed the governing police, and could raise the dead.
This is a cold hard fact: When you are parenting, you are that child’s parent. The child is not yours. I don’t care if you squoze that child out of your own home grown vaginal canal or if you took out a loan large enough to purchase a small island off the coast of Florida to pay for the adoption fees, that child does not belong to you. That child belongs to themself. That child is not making a commitment to you. That child doesn’t owe you a thing. That child is not your property or your own little person-toy.
Children belong to themselves.
As parents, we belong to the children. We, as adults, make a conscious choice to commit to the child a certain degree of responsibility and in that commitment we become the child’s parent. Not the other way around.
Say that out loud. “Parents belong to the children. Children belong to themselves.”
As a parent, your sole reason for existing is to provide a child with whatever that child needs to flourish in life to be happy and healthy and sound. The child does not exist to provide you with anything you need. They do not exist to be pretty for pictures. They do not exist to make you feel good about yourself. They do not exist to carry on any ideals or practices you place value on.
You exist for the child.
As people who wholly belong completely to themselves, children are going to make decisions about themselves and present truths about themselves that parents are meant to handle with respect, understanding, kindness, and support. Yes, this applies to the child with a wild streak who wants to take dance and dye his hair blue and also to the child you brought home and introduced to your entire family as ‘our daughter, Shiloh’ who, two years later, is helping you write new announcement corrections announcing him as ‘our son, John.’
Just as a parent would attend to a child’s every medical need, take care to attend to the child’s inner well being, as well. Do not ever forget that the child is a person. Do not ever forget that the experiences the child has are what that child’s life is going to be. As a parent, try to make those experiences good even if it is well outside your comfort zone.
Parenting is not about your comfort.
You’re going to lose sleep. You’re going to cry. You’re going to feel righteous anger. You’re going to love. You’re going to be exhausted, honestly. But, you’ll be a parent and that child will have you.
So, please, if you want to be a parent, do what you need to do to be a parent but remember that children are people, their lives matter, they have worth, and they deserve unconditional love and respect.”