The first thing new parents hear is “Congratulations!” The second thing they hear is advice. That advice falls into two categories – the chastising kind that seems to highlight your imperfections (at least in your mind) and the words of wisdom that remind you that if you care about and love your kids, you’ll probably do just great. We prefer the latter.
In 1946, Dr. Spock told parents “Trust yourself. You know more than you think you do.” It was a revolution. Prior to that, parents had been fed a diet of lectures warning them against spoiling their kids with too much love and affection. Now, more than 60 years later, those words are still incredibly reassuring. Fortunately, other kind and compassionate voices have joined his.
One of the latest comforting voices comes from Brené Brown, author of "Daring Greatly," who shared her thoughts on parenting with Huffington Post readers in the form of "The Wholehearted Parenting Manifesto." It’s a gentle reminder to be kind and loving not just to our children, but to ourselves as well. In it, Brown promises her kids:
“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.”
In her article, Brown says she wrote this manifesto as a sort of antidote to all the do-it-this-way-or-you're-doomed parenting advice out there. She mentions her favorite piece of parenting advice, which she got listening to author Toni Morrison on "The Oprah Show" in 2000. Morrison asked parents, “When your child walks in the room, does your face light up? When my children used to walk in the room, when they were little, I looked at them to see if they had buckled their trousers or if their hair was combed or if their socks were up. You think your affection and your deep love is on display because you're caring for them. It's not. When they see you, they see the critical face. But if you let your face speak what's in your heart...because when they walked in the room, I was glad to see them. It's just as small as that, you see."
What a tremendous piece of advice. We love and adore our children. They can make us smile and laugh like no one else. But, so often, in the midst of the daily grind and in our efforts to teach them right, we may forget to let them see the joy they bring us.
Morrison taught us to lighten up on our kids, even if their hair isn’t combed or their socks aren’t straight. Last spring, April Perry, writing at the Power of Moms, reminded us to lighten up on ourselves, even if our parties aren’t Pinterest perfect and our meals aren’t gourmet. Perry asked us:
“Can we remind each other that it is our uniqueness and love that our children long for? It is our voices. Our smiles. Our jiggly tummies. Of course we want to learn, improve, exercise, cook better, make our homes lovelier, and provide beautiful experiences for our children, but at the end of the day, our children don’t want a discouraged, stressed-out mom who is wishing she were someone else.”
Here are a few other quotes and bits of advice about parenthood that are sure to reassure you and make you smile.
“Motherhood is a choice you make everyday, to put someone else's happiness and well-being ahead of your own, to teach the hard lessons, to do the right thing even when you're not sure what the right thing is...and to forgive yourself, over and over again, for doing everything wrong.” ~Donna Ball, At Home on Ladybug Farm
"You will always be your child's favorite toy." ~Vicki Lansky, Trouble-Free Travel with Children
"If you want your children to improve, let them overhear the nice things you say about them to others." ~Haim Ginott
"The guys who fear becoming fathers don't understand that fathering is not something perfect men do, but something that perfects the man. The end product of child raising is not the child but the parent." ~Frank Pittman, Man Enough
And remember, you’re never going to get it all right. It’s OK. As Bill Cosby said in "Fatherhood," “In spite of the six thousand manuals on child raising in the bookstores, child raising is still a dark continent and no one really knows anything. You just need a lot of love and luck - and, of course, courage.”
What is the most inspiring piece of parenting advice you've ever heard?
Dana Macario is a Seattle-area mom who’s going to try her best to let her face always light up when her kids walk into the room, even if their clothes don’t match.