It is tempting on Mother’s Day to wax eloquent about the virtues of mothering, spinning out a beautiful vision of the noble calling of motherhood.

I have fallen prey myself to this temptation in the past: https://inaspaciousplace.wordpress.com/2011/05/08/great-mothering/

The danger of our grand visions is that they carry the potential to pack a whack load of guilt. As any person knows, none of us adequately embodies the highest aspirations we hold for what it means to be truly and deeply human. Unless our vision is desperately low, we know what it means to fail. This is powerfully true when it comes to the challenge of parenting.

Failure is built into the job of parenthood.

Children are powerful beyond imagining (a reality, incidentally, at which we should rejoice – children need to explore their power early in life before it becomes too dangerous). No adult can control a two-year-old. In a power struggle with a toddler, the adult will always lose. Frequently the frustrations of our inability will leak out into behaviour we might not choose in more dispassionate moments.

So, the first qualification for successful parenting is to admit defeat.

Obviously, parents need to do all they can to keep children safe and to establish adequate parameters to enable a child to develop a reasonably secure sense of identity. But, beyond this minimal structure, the foundational tasks of parenting are loving support and sensitive attention.

The best parents I have been privileged to observe are those who have surrendered. They have let go of their need to control their children and seek to create an open space in which their children can learn to listen deeply to the inner truth that speaks in the heart of their being. These parents work to create a gentle environment in which their children feel heard and acknowledged so that they may develop the most essential skills of adulthood: self-awareness, honesty, deep listening, and authenticity.

In order to become a spacious parent, I need to have a strong sense of inner security.

Inner security develops out of the ability to fail well. I fail well when I become accustomed to falling down and getting up, falling down and getting up, over and over and over. As I experience this rhythm I learn to cling less tightly. I can relax into the awareness that my failure is not the end of the world. It is always possible to pick myself up, start over, change direction, and move on. I am not defined by my failures.

Holding my failures lightly, I begin to see that their impact is far less heinous than I probably fear.

Children, who grow up in relatively secure and stable homes, are seldom destroyed by parental missteps. In addition to being powerful beyond imagining, children are incredibly resilient.

The litany of my failures as a parent during the years my children were young could crash the internet. And yet, miraculously, the two little girls upon whom my addled parenting skills were inflicted have grown up to be luminous, wise, thoughtful, compassionate young women. The beauty that was their birthright triumphed over the ego-driven insecurities of my parental blunders.

In the end, they knew I loved them desperately and nothing much else really mattered.

Today on this mother’s day, I wish for the mothers I know, not a great and exulted vision of mothering, but only that they may relax.

Trust the wisdom, power, and resilience of your children. Let the love that brought these little people into existence be your guide. Listen deeply to the knowledge that resides in your own loving heart. Do not despair when you stumble. Perfect parenting is impossible. Loving failure is the only achievable goal for any parent in the real world.

Happy Mother’s Day you noble bearers of love and light!!

 

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