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.
Tina Smith6 years ago
You distracted me today – but luckily you did. I think I have found a soul mate in you! Fresh for a first connection I know, but hey… life is short. I was on the Course that Convert FB page (fellow student) and came across your post when you were launching your video teaser in July. I really love your website, it is beautiful – I have been exploring it for about an hour now (ha ha serious distraction!) and so much of it resonates with me. I just read your blog (I don’t think we know what parenting is suppose to be) and was amused to find it based on Jennifer Senior’s Ted Talk. I love that Ted Talk! In fact it is one of the homework I set for my course that I run for Mums… the revitalise programme – soon to go online (with a lot of luck and some more hard work) as Mum’s Revitalise in 60 days. Check out my website if you get a minute. I am a coach and foundered Your New Wings exactly because I want to help other mums! Anyway, I don’t usually do this so it all feels a bit weird – I write poems too and have one I wrote for my Nan, so I loved your tribute to your Grandma… awesome to put in a short video. Anyway, I will say goodbye now and try to get back to the much more boring job of trying to decide between Mailchimp and Convertkit… I have no list so it really hurts to pay each month so soon out of the gate for Convert Kit… Have a wonderfully magical day! xx