“Who we are and how we engage with the world are much stronger predictors of how our children will do than what we know about parenting.” – Brene Brown
It isn’t often I am struck by parenting ‘advice.’ My husband sent the below parenting manifesto along today as we grapple with how to parent our children in ways that foster being real as well as being kind. Rather than only nagging our children with the edict “that’s not nice” we’ve been reflecting about the importance of honoring feelings of anger and jealousy that may live beneath the unkind actions or words. We’ve been reckoning with anger ourselves. One morning when my fuse snapped and I yelled that I was feeling angry at my son, I was being hard on myself and feeling like I was not parenting well because I hadn’t responded with patience and kindness as my primary operating principles. It was a moment when Rowan had pushed my patience to the edge and I felt he’d gone too far. I expected my husband, who witnessed my outburst of anger, to agree that I had let Rowan down, that I had not acted mindfully. He instead said, “at least our son sees that it is okay to feel angry. At least he sees what is real for you. He knows the very real effect of his actions. You didn’t sugar coat anything. You were authentic with your feelings. You showed him too that moms also need space and a break.” (After my blow up I promptly said “Mama needs a break” and went into the bathroom and locked the door).
More than anything the incident reminded me that I’m not perfect, but that “perfect” is also not perfect. Nothing is perfect. Perhaps a more useful way to look at any difficult situation with my family is whether I acted authentically. This doesn’t mean letting myself throw tantrums just because I feel like it, but it does mean owning my anger, exhaustion and intense frustration when it arises. It means not turning away or glossing over the complex emotions that surface in any given day raising two young boys. It means modeling accountability by acknowledging what I could have done differently and apologizing if feelings were hurt. It means being present to what is – and truly seeing myself as well as my family through the eyes of authenticity, returning to appreciation and gratitude as soon as I am able. As Brene Brown says below in her Parenting Manifesto, “I will not teach or love or show you anything perfectly, but I will let you see me, and I will always hold sacred the gift of seeing you…”
The Wholehearted Parenting Manifesto
Above all else, I want you to know that you are loved and lovable. You will learn this from my words and actions–the lessons on love are in how I treat you and how I treat myself.
I want you to engage with the world from a place of worthiness. You will learn that you are worthy of love, belonging, and joy every time you see me practice self-compassion and embrace my own imperfections.
We will practice courage in our family by showing up, letting ourselves be seen, and honoring vulnerability. We will share our stories of struggle and strength. There will always be room in our home for both.
We will teach you compassion by practicing compassion with ourselves first; then with each other. We will set and respect boundaries; we will honor hard work, hope, and perseverance. Rest and play will be family values, as well as family practices.
You will learn accountability and respect by watching me make mistakes and make amends, and by watching how I ask for what I need and talk about how I feel.
I want you to know joy, so together we will practice gratitude.
I want you to feel joy, so together we will learn how to be vulnerable.
When uncertainty and scarcity visit, you will be able to draw from the spirit that is a part of our everyday life.
Together we will cry and face fear and grief. I will want to take away your pain, but instead I will sit with you and teach you how to feel it.
We will laugh and sing and dance and create. We will always have permission to be ourselves with each other. No matter what, you will always belong here.
As you begin your Wholehearted journey, the greatest gift that I can give to you is to live and love with my whole heart and to dare greatly.
I will not teach or love or show you anything perfectly, but I will let you see me, and I will always hold sacred the gift of seeing you. Truly, deeply, seeing you.
– Brene Brown