OK so there may be a heck of a lot more than 5, but I’m not talking about the contents of your internet search history you weirdo. There is such a thing as over-sharing, and some things really do need to be kept to yourself.
Before they know any better, kids worship their parents; which is understandable when you consider how they rely on you for pretty much everything. But let’s face it, you didn’t ask to be put on a pedestal and burdened with the responsibility that accompanies God-like status.
Yet every parent spends at least some time elevated in the eyes of a child who hasn’t thus far been exposed to the inevitable array of flaws that each and every one of us possess. It’s a position of power bestowed courtesy of an as yet unspoilt naivety.
A diligent parent will use this period to influence and gently guide. A less conscientious parent will wield this power for self-aggrandisement and as a lazy means by which to apply discipline. In either case, parents know they’re frauds living on borrowed time. That they’re not perfect, and the illusion will one day be shattered.
While this is inevitable and completely natural as your child grows and your relationship reflects the natural evolution of their consciousness, it’s still a scary thought. Not because we want to preserve this illusion, but because the thought of being a disappointment to our kids is devastating.
We know we’re going to get rumbled at some point, but maybe it’s the way they find out that matters. For me, the following five we’re revelations I dreaded my son learning. Yet when he did, surprisingly formed the basis for much opportunity to learn, and an incredible bonding experience as the gap between parent and child closed.
You’re not invincible.
We all remember classmates making bold claims about the physical prowess of their fathers. “My dad’s harder than your dad!” It’d ridiculous right? But when your child relies on you for absolutely everything, including personal safety and security, it suits to believe that the ‘old man’ is one tough cookie.
You know you’re not invincible, and it’s a title you don’t really want as it’d be a nightmare trying to hold on to. But it still stings a little, knowing that you’re just as vulnerable as the next guy, with the responsibility of being protector to your loved ones.
When you think about it though, this particular truth is a fantastic lesson for them to learn because it highlights the fact that mutual safety is a social contract negotiated on a daily basis between complete strangers. This knowledge promotes self-awareness and personal accountability, while also emphasising the need to be aware of the wider populace.
So while this enlightenment may cause them to lose a comfort blanket of sorts, they can now begin to formulate a strategy by which to navigate this unpredictable world of ours, with your help and guidance of course.
You get scared, often.
Fear is healthy. Not necessarily the variety that has you fighting to retain bladder control. But in general, if we didn’t experience fear then we’d lose a major motivating factor within our lives. Fear keeps us on our toes and prevents us being overly reckless. It stimulates hazard perception, and enables critical thinking in relation to risk and reward.
As a parent, it’s safe to say that we experience a fair share of worry in relation to our little ones, and attempt to exert as much control as we can over circumstances that affect their life. Try as we might however, there’s only so much we can anticipate, so I’m sure I don’t just speak for myself when I say that fear of the unknown is something that keeps many of us up at night.
I’ve been scared for my son’s health and well-being. I’ve been pretty damn scared for my own on more occasions than I’d care to admit. I’ve been scared as to how I’d pay my bills from one month to the next, and a host of other circumstances that have weighed heavily upon my mind over the years.
I ought to explain something at this point. I consider myself a problem solver, and don’t subscribe to a victim mentality in any way, shape, or form. In fact I don’t scare easily. But in this context fear, as a natural emotion, keeps me sharp and ensures that I don’t bury my head in the sand when problems arise.
Kids may be comfortable believing that their dad isn’t afraid of anything. However admitting a certain amount of vulnerability isn’t a bad thing, because then you have an opportunity to explain how you manage fear, and how you deal with challenges. Provided the focus is kept upon finding solutions, then this can be an entirely positive experience.
You don’t have all the answers.
I’ve never been good at quizzes. Despite an enormous wealth of useless information rattling round in this echo chamber I call a brain, what I consider worthy of retention isn’t necessarily what the wider populace would waste grey matter on.
That said, aren’t we all similar in the sense that we each have a unique variety of interests and trigger points for activating memory?
In any case I’m willing to bet that each and every one of us has had that feeling that very few people truly ‘get’ us. So why would your child be any different? Isn’t it therefore natural to assume that they also harbour an occasional sense of isolation and confusion?
As a parent, having this level of understanding means that you can genuinely relate when your child comes to you with their worries and woes. However, it doesn’t matter how many tee shirts you own of the ‘been there, done that’ variety; they will inevitably come to you with a dilemma for which you have no point of reference.
Parents are by their very nature trouble-shooters and problem solvers, with a prime directive to spare our kids hardship and suffering. This we achieve via finding solutions to their current and potential problems, thereby smoothing their path as they move forward through life.
The reality is that this is far more easy when they’re younger and their life experiences are limited. But as they get older, it’s only a matter of time before they come to you with a problem that’s outside your scope of experience, and for which you have no solution.
For what it’s worth I’ve been there many times, and it sucks not being able to step in and sweep away whatever’s troubling your child. But yet again this also provides a perfect opportunity for personal growth. The first step may be the hardest, admitting that you don’t have an answer. However you are then able to sit down and collaborate on the issue at hand, combining two minds instead of one.
We grow in strength and character by the challenges we overcome, and while we may not have all the answers, we can demonstrate an ability to think rationally, clearly, and even imaginatively in order to find the solutions that enable us to move forward.
You’re just as clueless about relationships.
Your child will get their heart broken. It’s a fact. You know it, they try to hang onto the belief that they’ll find the ‘one’ straight off the bat, but at the end of the day it’s inevitable. They’re going to cry on your shoulder and ask you why this happened to them. The truth is who knows why people do what they do?
We’re all complex creatures, each with a myriad of inbuilt thought processes and motivating factors. We’re all unique and equally confusing to one another at certain times, and you can drive yourself crazy trying to figure it all out.
Perhaps the most helpful thing you can do is admit that you’re just as clueless as they are, and that they may as well forget trying to completely understand human nature.
Encourage your child to spend time getting to know the people who matter to them, and make communication a constant factor; but beyond that, they ought never to try to control, restrict or dominate within a relationship. I believe that understanding comes when both parties express freely, and encourage the same. Perhaps that’s the key? Who knows? I’m still trying to figure it all out.
You’re far from perfect.
I used to think that at some point in the future I’d have this life thing all worked out. I don’t recall whether I envisioned a eureka moment, or assumed that knowledge and understanding would naturally accumulate until I reached some kind of threshold.
The thing is, no matter how much you learn and grow as a person, life has a habit of throwing more and more stuff in your path to fascinate and confuse. I accepted long ago that I’d never figure it all out, and that I was happy to take the lessons along the way as gifts.
In fact one of the greatest gifts you can bestow upon your child is the knowledge that they too don’t have to perfect. That it’s OK to make mistakes, and as long as their intentions are honourable they’ll rarely be insurmountable.
Permission to make mistakes equates to a freedom to experiment and take chances in life, which is a wonderful way to stretch personal boundaries and discover what you’re truly capable of.
A fear of making mistakes is usually associated with the judgemental views of others. So it’s a catch 22 of the best kind, in that the less you care about what others think, the less you worry about making mistakes.
Be honest, and give your child examples of how your various failures and misfires formed the basis for life lessons you still carry with you today. You may not be perfect, but you’re better for it.