128: The big secret about parenting (itty bitty thought)
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Recently, I saw a couple parents asking questions on social media. One young parent was asking a group of people how to know when her child was ready for solid food. “Is there a sign? Or is it just trial and error?”
Another parent was asking anyone who would listen about a situation she was dealing with regarding her older child. She was really struggling and wanted to know, “how am I supposed to know I’m even doing this right?”
I’ve raised one kid to adulthood and the other has a year to go. And what I can tell you is this: It’s a lot easier to figure out how to run a farm than it is to figure out how to raise a kid
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This itty bitty thought is as much for parents as it is for kids, although we’re all technically kids whether we know our parents or not. So here’s what I have to say to every single kid out there: your parents were punting. Every parent that has ever lived has punted. And most of them—most of us—pretend they aren’t.
Most parents have a list a mile long of things they wish they would have done differently, and it’s usually way longer than the list of things they would say they got right. Because behind closed doors, a lot of parents feel like they really screwed things up and they just hope no one else figures it out.
When you decide to become a parent, you will decide to raise your kids in similar or different ways to how you were raised. And those similarities or differences might work out. And they might not.
And the thing is, you might not know until years later.
For instance, that kid who said he didn’t want a birthday party might not have wanted a party. But it might have also been the kid that really needed you to step in and throw a party for him.
That kid you decided to be super strict with might have needed it. It might also be the reason another kid totally rebelled and won’t talk to you anymore.
That kid that you decided to be really relaxed with might have really flourished in that environment. In another kid, it might be the reason they’re filled with anxiety.
Asking 40 million questions might be what drives one kid away. It might be the way another kid feels loved.
And you don’t always immediately know. There is so much about parenting you don’t figure out until after the situation has passed.
You figure it out after the fact.
You figure it out when you look back.
But you know what? You might have no clue what you’re doing, but neither does your kid. You’ve never been at this place in your parenting, but your kid has never been at this stage of being a kid before.
The secret is, we’re all punting through life, no matter if we are parenting or not. So really, this is to say that parenting is no different than anything else. We’re all learning as we go.
So to answer the questions of, “Will there be a sign? Or is it just trial and error?” and “How am I supposed to know I’m doing this right?”
Yes, there will be a sign. Probably a few. And you won’t know which one to pay attention to. And you will pick the wrong one. And you will try again. And it will be trial and error. And you will feel like you screwed it up so many times.
But here’s the thing.
You might have no clue what you’re doing, but I guarantee you’re doing way better than you think. You’re doing the best that you can.
You know how I know that? Because if you weren’t, you wouldn’t care. And you wouldn’t have asked the question, “How am I supposed to know I’m doing this right?” in the first place.
— Amy Dingmann, 3-31-21
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