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  • Lori K Walters

Let's ditch the resolutions and talk about the dance.


Snowy forest reflected in lake.


About 25 years ago, I was at a New Year's Eve house party beside the Fraser River in the interior of British Columbia. I was in a relationship with a wonderful man who lived on a communal, organic farm and whose friends were left-wing thinkers, non-conformists, draft dodgers, university professors and hippies. It was all pretty exciting for a girl who had grown up in a conservative ranching family.


As midnight drew near and everyone was getting excited, I was suddenly overcome with panic.


Tick. Tick.


The year was soon to be gone. Had I done everything I was supposed to do? Everything I’d said I would do?


Tick. Tick.


Even amidst a celebration, I was aware of not measuring up. Jeez.


Raise your hand if you’ve ever reviewed your year in a way that points all the spotlights on your unmet goals, failures to execute, and the holes in your heart or belly where you feel something is lacking.


Our culture, despite all the evidence to the contrary, still clings to the belief that we need to get stuff done and improve our station and status. We are inundated with messages about getting things accomplished and, this is the unhelpful part, that it's a clear equation from here to there. Set goal + go for it = accomplishment.


That’s been the message for decades and decades: If you’re good enough, you just have to set your goal, work hard, and it will be achieved. Of course, the implication is that, if you don’t accomplish your goals, then there’s something wrong with you: not enough effort, willpower, knowledge, charisma, soul, etc.


 So, we set more goals.


 


We do that in parenting too. We say: This is the year I'll stop exacerbating my daughter’s anxiety, jumping to the worst possible conclusions or inserting my perspective without listening. This is the year I'm going to control my temper or deal with my own anxiety. This is the year. 


And then as midnight approaches, you realize that you haven’t accomplished those things, or not to the extent you had hoped or expected of yourself. It's a set up to feel shitty about how you’re doing as a parent.


But there’s already a sea of doubt, guilt and self-criticism built into the parenting job. We don’t need annual reviews to make us feel like we haven’t measured up. And we don’t need New Year’s goal setting exercises to set us up to feel more failure this time next year.


Please, let’s not do that anymore, my friends.


~



The fact is that we don't have control over so many external factors that will affect what we want to accomplish in parenting. Things change with our kids. All. The. Time.


It’s not a linear equation. There isn’t a ‘right’ way to do it. It's fluid and unpredictable, like being at a dance with six DJs constantly changing the music. 


So, I’ve found some more grounding ways of taking in the last four seasons of my parenting: I look at how I did the dance:

 

  • What were the key moments in my relationships with each child?

  • When was I caught off guard and how did I adjust? What capabilities were strengthened by that?

  • What beautiful truths did I learn on the parenting dance floor this year?

  • What hard truths were revealed to me? How did I take them in and how did I give myself grace?

  • In what areas do I feel proud and/or content as a parent?

  • When did I step into unknown territory and what was I trusting?

  • If I was knocked to the floor, what parts of myself did I call upon to get back up again?

  • What ways of parenting did I release this past year and what did that make room for?

  • What new skills, perspectives and ways of parenting did I adopt and integrate into my daily life?

  • What new aspects of my way of parenting are glimmering on the horizon right now and what might it look like when I have them in me?

  • How am I cultivating inner peace with my way of parenting?

 


That’s a lengthy list, not to be answered all in one night. Read them again, one by one, with a breath in between, and wait for one or two to call to your heart. That’ll be enough and just right.


Go gently with yourself as you acknowledge where you are on your parenting path. Take in what Is (not what isn’t).


May your reflections bring you more peace in how you're parenting and illuminate what’s possible for you in the next set of this beautiful, wild dance.




Photo by Johnny Caspari on Unsplash

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