Today I had a long chat with a single dad, and he inspired me. He is about the most together, wise father I have ever had the privilege of talking to. His kids are almost grown now, but his approach to parenting really inspired me to write this article. He just gets it! He gets it in a way I wish so many of the parents who come to me for help would get it.
We were chatting about parental responsibilities, and it was so enlightening to me when he said that kids just need the basics – like love and acceptance – and anything other than that they can forgive. Kids are willing to forgive. That was the lightbulb moment for me!
He is so right. Kids are so willing to forgive. They will forgive and (mostly) forget, if you can just apologise, say you messed up, and then assure them of your love again. We also don’t always apologise. Not many of us think we need to apologise to a child. But we do. And we will be forgiven. And we will be closer. And we are modelling a valuable trait. It’s definitely a lesson we can all learn. Adults aren’t that good at forgiving. We hold grudges. We hold onto hurt and anger. We stay annoyed and injured, and all that does is hinder our own healing. Not so for a child. A child is so different. You can give a magic kiss… or a big momma bear hug… or take them to a park and play with them… or simply spend some quality time with them, and it’s all better. It’s totally forgiven. Just like that. They don’t harp on it, or revisit it. It’s done and over. They won’t bring it up again in a few weeks when something else happens … they just totally let it go.
Amazing. And so simple. And they are better off for it.
So stop stressing about whether you are doing it perfectly. None of us are. Most of us grow into parenthood as our children grow. Most of us are, to be honest, totally winging it most the time. My brother and his wife just had a baby, and each time I speak to them they are trying something new to get her to sleep… trying to discover that magic formula that works. But we all know that the magic formula may work one day… but then totally fail the next.
It’s a process of trial and error. Forever.
But there are certain fail safe constants… such as unconditional love and acceptance. Being honest and humble. Listening to hear, not just to appease. Being present. Allowing them to become the best little self they can become by bringing out the best in them, rather than trying to mould them into the person you believe they should be, or worse, the person you want them to be. And of course, completely loving whoever that person ultimately is.
In the minefield that is parenting, those are the constants. And if you get those right, they will forgive you for anything. They want to. They are willing forgivers. Don’t forget that.