Here are our hopes for you and for parents everywhere:
You will grow in your awareness of your own goodness.
This awareness is what your child wants for you. Your child knows your goodness. Your child wants the best for you, underneath all the unruly and demanding moments that happen every day. You are her sun and her moon and her stars. We hope you’ll find a way to grow your awareness of your own preciousness this year.
You will remember that every moment you spend parenting is a moment spent doing work that’s vital, important, and that has lasting value.
We need to remind one another often: parenting is vital. It’s real work. It’s complex work. It takes many millions of moments to nurture a child; through the lens of a society that concentrates on products and competition, each moment looks so “small.” Drying your child after her bath. Wiping her dirty boots before she gets very far past the front door. Quizzing her on her spelling words. Moments like these do not carry the aura of vital and worthy work. But they are just that. We hope you’ll remember the importance of your work, and that you will help the parents around you remember, too.
You will sample interesting ideas out there in the parenting world, including ours, but that you will think for yourself.
You are the real parenting expert in your home. You get to experiment. You get to come to your own conclusions. You get to try things, and when need be, to ignore what parenting “experts” say so you can listen well to yourself and to your experience.
You will experiment with listening exchanges to relieve yourself of upset, and to separate the shadows of hard times in the past from the realities of today.
Most of the strong feelings we have about the people and challenges in our lives have their roots in our vulnerable years as children. These leftover feelings crop up daily and sap our confidence. They can fritter the energy we have to love, laugh and stride forward. Although there’s an initial awkwardness involved, we hope you’ll experiment with Listening Partnerships often enough that you find yourself beginning to laugh more and even cry or tremble and sweat burdensome feelings away. Life looks better when you can “take out the garbage” emotionally, with someone you trust to listen and respect you. Starting out takes some courage and persistence. The rewards go deep.
When your child is off track, you will reach for her by setting limits early, gently, warmly, even playfully.
Your child is good, precious, and, we hope, full of beans! If early needs somehow didn’t get met, or if the daily connections aren’t made, you’re going to hear about it in the form of challenging behavior. We hope you’ll move confidently to bring a limit. Limits help her relieve the stress she is under, so she can regain her innate good judgment and joy in cooperation.
If you’re playful, your limit will lead to laughter that connects the two of you again. If you’re kind and matter of fact, she will most likely begin to cry, storm, or tantrum. Either approach is constructive. If you can stick with her, she will continue releasing inner tension until she has regained her ability to listen, to be cooperative, and to make the best of the situation at hand.
You will be able to take pride in your family, and in the policies and traditions you choose.
We live in a society that lures people into isolation with shiny objects that appeal, flash, distract, interrupt and fascinate. A society that hawks false nourishment, false comfort, and entertainment instead of fostering connections to meet our true needs. We hope you’ll experiment with creating your own fun in your family.
With guarding your together-time, so you have regular opportunities to play, connect and relax. That you’ll try out family policies that foster what is good and whole. It takes courage to disregard customs and expectations that don’t foster connection, but we hope you’ll gather your gumption. (Even if it means peanut butter toast and carrot sticks for dinner, or refusing to work overtime!)
You will ask for help. You will ask for help. You will ask for help.
This is very difficult for almost every parent, but it’s vital. The lack of support for the work of parenting virtually guarantees that you will reach the end of your rope. The Lone Ranger approach will exhaust you, emotionally or physically. It’s not true that getting into choppy parenting waters indicates that there is something wrong with you.
Poppycock! The job you are doing is big. The lack of support is dire. So we hope you will ask for help. Exchange help. Arrange help. Release the feelings that make you feel like asking for help indicates failure on your part. Good support will improve your parenting. It’s appropriate to ask. We hope you won’t stop until you have a good support system for the important job you do.
These are our wishes for you. And we hope to support you, and parents everywhere, as we all live well together with our loved ones.
Patty Wipfler, Paul Russell, Juli Idleman, Usha Sangam, Elizabeth Elias, Molly Pearson, and our Hand in Hand Instructors.