It’s an odd place to get parenting advice, but the best story regarding mothering I ever heard was from Penn Jillette on Marc Maron’s podcast WTF. Penn talked about how his mother’s philosophy was that she loved and cherished her children for who they were, from the moment of birth, and never for what they did. She delighted in their joys, but it was never about accomplishments.
According to Penn, she was once offended by a producer who asked her if she were proud of her son for receiving a positive New York Times review. She was horrified at the suggestion and put him in his place by affirming it was not his accomplishments that made her proud, but who he was and had always been. That’s the kind of mom I want to be.
Like Mrs. Jillette, I hope to be secure and self-assured enough to say honestly to my child, “There is nothing you need to do or be to make my life more complete. My greatest joy is just to experience you being you.” I want to keep my child safe and teach her what I can. But I need to let go of my own expectations and not dictate the direction of her life. It’s not about me. It is her life.
I hope I can be wise enough to realize that my viewpoint and life experience will not be the same as my child’s. I need to let go of thinking I know the right outcome for her. I hope that she learns much in life that is different and more expansive than what I know. There are so many things I can’t teach her. I want her life filled with warm, supportive people who can offer lessons I can’t, like how to cook, sing, start a fire, change a tire, swim. If I’m lucky, I’ll be learning too.
I hope I can be grounded enough to always consider her needs over my feelings. When she is slumped over, mid-tantrum, in the appropriately-named child’s pose, I hope I ask myself, “What do I need to be showing and teaching her in this moment with my words and actions?” and not, “Why is she doing this to me right now?”
I hope I can take good enough care of myself and my emotions that I recognize more often than not, that parenting is not about me. It’s about what is in my child’s best interest. It’s not about being right or in control. It’s about what is best for her.
At night she always say, “Let’s talk about my day.” Now that I can do. And that is about me. And it’s about us- our connection, our engagement, our love, and our relationship. That’s where I matter the most. That’s where I want to invest my attention and time. I hope to have many days that end saying, “Yeah, let’s talk about your day!”
Each day I get to talk to her, to experience her growth and learning, is a good day for me. It will never matter what was accomplished, what awards were won, which people were impressed. Just being there for her will always be enough. She is always enough.