As parents, we do a lot.
And it all begins before we even bring our little ones home.
We paint nurseries. We put together furniture. We stock the closet with smocked, frilly, monogrammed items. And we scour every single page of What to Expect When You’re Expecting, just waiting to read about exactly how we’ll need to think and feel as the baby progresses each month to the size of some strange fruit.
And then… when our sweet angel arrives, the real fun begins.
We walk the floors with a tiny screaming human in our arms. We clean bottles and pacifiers and change blowout diapers and soiled outfits and burp rags. We lose track of time as we struggle to keep our eyes open and watch hours of television with a sleeping baby on our laps.
And as our babies become children, we obsess over every detail.
We buy organic food. We schedule mandatory play-dates. We enroll our kids in music or movement or language classes (or all of the above) so that their minds are strategically enhanced by some sort of educational exposure to their growing world.
We apply to the best pre-schools and ensure that our children are tested for the gifted and talented program as early as humanly possible. We host the most over-the-top of birthday parties (live monkeys, anyone?). We sign up as room mom and field trip chaperone and we pay extra for the monogrammed birthday cupcakes.
And as if all of this weren’t enough, we spend hours driving to and from ballfields and gymnasiums, where we scream loudly and protectively from the bleachers, making sure that no referee or coach or parent or other kid will ever belittle our kid, because that’s just not gonna happen, is it?
Not on our watch.
Then the tween and teen years swoop in, and we put in emotional overtime. We’re forced to play therapist and coach and chauffeur and powerless bystander who can’t do a thing when our kids suffer for the things beyond our control. And we work very hard to shift the focus away from our angry houses, so that people will only see our well-rounded, honor-roll-making, extracurricularly-gifted, hoping-to-be-ivy-league-bound-kids with parents who have it all together, and then some.
Yes, as parents—I’d say we do a lot.
And yet I still wonder, have I done enough?
As my kids prepare to enter the driver’s seat in life—both literally and figuratively—have I adequately prepared them?
Have I taught them what they really need to know?
Have I shown them how to joyfully persevere when fate throws an evil curveball?
How to be a heart-healer and not a heart-breaker?
How to find incredible freedom by forgiving those who don’t necessarily want or deserve it?
How to feel seen and heard in a world that drowns out the voices of so many?
How to truly love themselves in a world full of Instagram filters?
How to seek out and maintain long-term, meaningful relationships?
How to stand for what they believe in, but not at the expense of others?
How to treat failure as a crazy tour guide—one that leads you to the darkest and scariest and loneliest of places and then forces you to find the path to some of the most beautiful sites you’ve ever seen?
How to realize that success can’t be found in a title, or a degree, or a bank account, or an achievement, but rather in the journey of using your talents to make a difference in this world?
How to know that loyalty and reliability and integrity are truly the best gifts you can give to friend or loved one?
How to show empathy, compassion, and respect to every single human being, no matter what?
How to appreciate who they are and why they bring value to this life?
How to include in an exclusive world?
And perhaps most importantly, to know that the only achievement that will ever really matter is the love that we’ve gained from the people who surround us when our time here is over?
I ask myself these unorthodox parenting questions, because the most important parts of preparing our children for the “real world” aren’t necessarily society’s standard, “check the box” items.
You know, the ones we hear of all the time.
Driver’s ed. College applications. Campus visits. Test scores. Rules. Boundaries. Consequences. Curfews. Dorm-room essentials.
While these are all critical pieces of the parenting journey, I just can’t help but wonder… isn’t there so much more?
Have I really done enough?
I don’t know. But I sure hope so….
Holli Fawcett Clayton, is the creator of Courageous & Connected, a website about human connection and the ways we can find it. She once chased grades and degrees and job titles and new clients. Now, she chases two teenagers, a first-grader, a dog, dishes, laundry, and new things to write about. Originally from Arkansas (Go Hogs!), she’s lived overseas and traveled the world. She is now in Texas with a big, blended family for which she is grateful. You can find her work on her blog site, and also on HuffPost and Grown&Flown.