This is the last part in a series of discussions regarding The Idle Parent Manifesto, which can be found in Tom Hodgkinson’s book The Idle Parent: Why Laid-Back Parents Raise Happier and Healthier Kids. Need to get caught up? You can do so here.
It’s hard to believe that 1) I’ve been doing this Idle Parent series since I started The Risky Kids nearly 2 years ago (!) and 2) that it’s actually over. Don’t say I never finish what I start! Of all the many posts Lisa and I have written regarding the Idle Parent Manifesto, of all the many ways we’ve asked you to rethink the way you parent, this final idea within the manifesto is my very favorite. If you never read another post within the series, if you only choose to take away one idea, let it be this one:
There are many paths.
We all know it in our hearts: there isn’t one right way to parent. Wherever you are on the scale of risky to cautious, you try to parent the best way you know how, in the way you feel is the right fit for your family. We start with these itty bitty babies and no clue what to do with them, and we set our sights on the far away day when they will leave us for their own grand lives. We hope to see them walk out our doors with a good head on their shoulders, their feet firmly planted on the ground, and their eyes to the skies of possibility. In between, we travel all kinds of convoluted ways to get them there.
If you figured out a straight line to get them from Point A to Point B? Good for you. You win the Perfect Parent Prize and you can write a book for the rest of us. But I bet you haven’t amassed any where near the volumes of stories we could write about our funniest, favorite, and yes, most shameful moments our own windy paths have taken us on.
I wouldn’t hold your breath for those parents or that book, though, since the Perfect Parent is a myth. They’re a community myth, one that we all have a hand in creating and perpetuating. The Perfect Parent has it all under control. The Perfect Parent sleep trains (or doesn’t). The Perfect Parent works outside the home (or doesn’t). The Perfect Parent enrolls their children in all the best activities (or doesn’t). The Perfect Parent lets their child walk to school alone (or doesn’t). The Perfect Parent only feeds their children organic, whole-grain, sugar-free food (or doesn’t). Don’t you see? The Perfect Parent with the One Path to Perfect Children is the story we tell ourselves. Only instead of lulling us to sleep with dreams of all the ways we’ve done well by our children, this story keeps us awake with tales of failures and shortcomings.
At the end of the book, the author encourages the reader to stop making every aspect of childhood a parenting priority. His thoughts are that if you relinquish some of that control, your kids will be happier and you’ll feel less overworked as a parent. He asks the reader to “Give childhood back to the children. Resist the American way. Keep rebelling! Make family life into a revolutionary act.”
I like that. If you only take one thing away from this series, or frankly, from this blog, let it be this: make your own story and forge your own path. Please look to us and the other trusted voices around you for inspiration, but don’t let anybody else write your family’s story for you.
My goal and passion is to give you elements to make your story more playful. No matter where you fall on the Risky Scale, all I hope is that you’ll look for ways to add just a little bit of risk to your lives. Try something that scares you just a bit. Do something as a family you never thought you could do. Do you like it? Then try a little more. Do you hate it? Then try something different. Whatever you do, don’t submit to the myth of the Perfect Parent and the One Path. Start your own revolution against the stories that aren’t your own, and enjoy the twisty path.