One of the things I like least about being a parent is being unable to accurately predict how my children will feel about my decisions or parenting style in the future.
If I behave this way _____, they will behave this way _____.
If I don’t do this ______, they will feel this __________.
I find myself attempting to change or alter my first-instincts on parenting or over-thinking my parenting decisions based on how my children might feel later as teenagers or adults.
This appears to make sense.
Until I really get that there is no determining how people will feel in the future. There is a whole rainbow of feeling flavors to choose from in every situation, depending on temperament, mood, influences and let’s face it: choices.
My kids get to choose how they feel about my parenting. They can even change their minds mid-way through and decide that something they have been fine with previously, now sucks for them. They can re-alter history, as children have been known to do, and pull out my parenting decisions later so as to use them against me as evidence of my flawed parenting technique. I know, I did this to my parents, my mother especially.
No amount of over-thinking or mind-changing or future-predicting can save me from this.
It might be the biggest bummer in parenting.
Some examples: I try to get my children to watch what they eat and exercise so they can have healthy bodies. While walking the tightrope of body image and trying to control whether they feel good or bad about their bodies. If I put too much pressure on this I worry my daughter might feel like I don’t think she’s good enough or beautiful, but if I put too little pressure on this, I worry that she’ll later feel like I was a bad mom for not teaching her the proper ways to eat and exercise.
The reality, of course, is that I can only put some good opportunities (I nearly said “the right opportunities”) out there for her, but ultimately how she chooses to feel about her body is her responsibility.
I will sometimes re-examine my parenting decisions in “light” of “how she might feel about it someday.” Which is really dumb, because I can barely predict how I might feel about something someday. Sometimes I can barely muddle through feelings I’ve already had in the past. Also, as I grow older and learn the art of forgiveness and letting go, I understand that feelings change over time and they’ve always been my choice.
I certainly can’t predict how another person will choose to interpret their experience. Will they use it as a building block for a foundation of future resentments or achievements?
I know this to be true. I know that I can only make the best parenting decisions right now, based on current circumstances and I should trust my gut. But, I forget sometimes and try to bring out my emotional crystal ball and then let it dictate for me what the right parenting choice is.
Am I alone?