Dr. Gordon Neufeld, renowned child development expert, says “we have lost the traditional source of our cues, for what to do and how to act, as parents.”
It isn’t melodramatic to admit that we are in uncharted territory; it is the first, essential step.
As investigative journalist Jennifer Senior points out, our fixation with ‘how to parent’ is still pretty fresh; the word parent wasn’t used much as a verb until 1970!
She calls it the Paradox of Modern Parenthood:
“We still don’t have a new set of scripts to guide us through.
Normlessness is a very tricky thing.
It almost guarantees some level of personal and cultural distress.”
Basically we are all flying by the seat of our sweet, little denim Osh-Kosh, figuring it out as we go.
Some may find relief in the illusion that there’s still a mainstream parenthood, perhaps ‘brought to you by’ Walmart and the smiling children on real estate commercials.
Others find purpose in the quest.
Many are troubled, uniquely self-conscious about “getting it right.”
We are all coping with this massive shift — from cultural auto-pilot to a serious hands-on-the-wheel sense of responsibility.
For a generation of over-achievers, pretty souped up on excellence and vested in mastery, how we raise our kids matters in a rather personal way.
And having full access to every piece of parenting advice, ever, sets a high bar.
There’s an agony to that.
“So much information,” Neufeld says, “and so few to put the dots together.”
Those who can see beyond the dots and intuit a deeper gestalt from the inside of this mess are my heroes.
I happen to love that we are pioneers on the virgin plains of a brave new parenting world.
I love how it throws us deep, deep upon our innermost resources and challenges us to conquer the Storm that is Norm.
This is the kind of ride I was born to strap myself to the mast for.
I have made it my whole fascination — gluing my eyes to the dead of night to find the stars and orient myself.
And what a beautiful sky it is, full of guiding lights.
Within the spectacular void of Parenthood Lost, as the old generic ways subside, there is a body of emerging wisdom, and there is wild empowerment.
Some parents of this age will develop a reflex ~ a gesture so subtle and automatic that we won’t even realize it has become our modern form of prayer, our way of reading the tea leaves. We will turn to the Google search bar and its prophets for our parenting answers and remedies.
That is fine. That has a place.
But there are those like Jennifer Senior who will go where the real grappling is. Go and carve up some fresh ground.
Instead of offering up queries that auto-populate in search engine boxes, the more investigative among us will keep our high calibre Questions burning. We will hold them as kerosene lamps because we are aware of what we are: sojourning pilgrims in an uncharted land.
I am a humble pilgrim, intimate with my need and my unknowing.
I am in awe of the vastness of this territory; the valour of my task.
I know these few acres quite well by now, and can boldly proclaim I am good at what I do.
Parenting with radical authenticity.
Parenting from joy.
Parenting by experiment.
As an artform.
Relying on, expecting, and receiving miracles.
Raising these four children…
as if by Magic.
Because out here in the wilderness, that’s what actually works.