Friday, October 29, 2010


2: the present time or any other particular time

A few weeks ago, B made a pretty big mistake.  The kind that makes you wish as a parent that you could go back and undo it.  It momentarily rocked our world, but after a few conversations with B, I was feeling better.  When I shared with someone how it had made me feel, she asked whether I felt fearful.  I told her no, that once I talked to B and heard her side of the story and her motivations, I wasn't fearful.  This friend then expressed some surprise that it didn't make me fearful about middle school or high school.  My response to that was that I try very hard to not think that far ahead.  When I do, my mind begins to swirl with all of the possible things that could go wrong.  But I know that I could sit here right now and make a very long list of all of the possible things that could happen and not hit on the exact mistakes that will be made.  Because I know that mistakes will be made.

The danger in letting my mind drift to A, B or K as high schoolers or college students is that some of those memories are fresher.  One goal I have as a parent is that my children make different mistakes than the ones I've made.  I know they'll make mistakes.  Let's just have some fresh ones, shall we?  Let's not repeat the old ones.  But if I imagine them in high school, it's hard for me to visualize how they will interact with friends or boys without using the only data I have about what it's like to be in high school - the data from my own life.  Same thing with college.

So I'm trying very hard to stay in the moment.  One mistake by a 9 year old doesn't mean she is doomed to repeat that mistake for the next twenty years, so I've decided it's best to try to treat it like one mistake, not as anticipation of a pattern that may never develop.  It may not sound like there's much difference there, but I think staying in the moment helps keep the emotional reaction more in line with the offense.  There's a big difference between a life of crime and a stolen pack of gum. I try to see it for what it is and not let it morph into something far bigger.

A friend recently said about parenting, "If you don't take all of the credit, you can't take all of blame."  I love this because it goes so well with my desire to parent in the moment.  I wasn't the one who made the mistake.  B was.  Did I play a role in it?  Yes, but a very small one.  It was her mistake and she should bear the vast majority of the blame.  But it was one mistake, not a foreshadowing of who she will always be.

I think another advantage of trying to parent in the moment is that it helps us get a clearer picture of who are children are evolving into being.  A and B are 10 and 9 now and I can look back and see ways they have changed over the years.  I can also pinpoint aspects of their personalities that have been there nearly from birth.  But I couldn't have told you five years ago which things were fleeting and which were here to stay.  So I think it's safest to look back on occasion and look forward very rarely.  In the main, I want to stay in the moment, right there with them as we walk through life together.


Anonymous said...

Well said Shannon and so true! If I could convince some of the foster parents (and even the mental health professionals) that we work with to treat mistakes in this way, rather than overreacting and seeing them as predictors of a lifetime of failure, the kids I serve would be much better off. Thanks for sharing.

WordGirl said...

Alanna, thanks so much for saying this! Sometimes it's hard as a parent not to feel like a child's mistake is foreshadowing. But maybe that's because I read too much! :-)

aimee Guest said...

I feel like there is so much of my children that is still mysterious, that I long to understand and know. It took years of erasing ideas from parenting books to allow me to search for who my kids are, not who I was supposed to make them into...I do know that I longed to be known by my mom when I was a kid, and I look back and wonder how there was so much about me she seemed to's much harder to start the knowing process as adults.

Chris and Tiana said...

This is a great perspective and a good lesson for me, since I'm someone who's already worrying about my daughter becoming a teenager, and she's only 4! Thanks for sharing. I want to remember this well over the next few years.