There are many things we can only know when we're "in it." In the experience of it, tasting all its flavors close-up. Parenting has been this way for me.
Without question, parenting has been the most rigorous work of my life. Physical elements are part of it -- the diapers, nursing and social planning -- but the big-huge-colossal-galactic part of the work of parenting isn't tangible, visible, or often even name-able.
It is emotional work. It is spiritual work. It grows us, stretches us, calls out the parts of us that want to emerge. Our greatest learning and growth can live inside our parenting, when we let them.
Before I was a parent, I thought a parent could provide everything their child needed in terms of guidance and wisdom. Once I had a child, I realized this is untrue. While much guidance can come from a parent, each child needs more than one parent can offer.
I've seen it in my friends' children. Eyes and hearts longing to know love from all the adults around them. I've seen it in my child, her sense of inner trust expanding when she is parented by someone other than me or her father.
Once while camping, my daughter was about 20 yards away from me, playing with friends. From where I stood, I could see she needed something but I also knew there were parents closer to her who might help. I felt a longing. Within my chest, I hoped those parents would help.
And they did!
I felt relieved. My daughter got her need met and I didn't have to meet it. Someone whose values and ways I trusted, helped her out. Through this, my daughter grew more trusting of the world — that people would take care of her, not just her parents.
Weight lifted off my shoulders, trust grown in my child, plus a strengthened bond between my child and that parent. Multiple wins!
Not all parents are open to letting other parents guide their children. I've had my heart gently broken by a close friend who didn't want me to connect with her child when the connection was "corrective." She only seemed to welcome me when I was coming from sweetness, affirming her child's strengths — not when I saw something unloving in her child and wanted to offer guidance. It hurt. It felt like I got cut off, not being allowed to fully express myself in friendship with her child. It felt like I wasn't trusted, or that she was scared.
Some parents want a lot of help from others. Some want none. What I am suggesting is that we open ourselves to welcoming help. Parenting can be exhausting and it doesn't need to be so bad, when we can allow support from those willing to offer it.
If someone guides your child in a way that doesn't feel trustworthy or aligned with you, step away from that person's guidance or ask if they're willing to hear input about your values and ways. This dynamic of giving and receiving parental guidance to other people's children is never 100% free of messes — life is messy.
Talking with your child about the varied guidance they receive can be a great learning experience too. "Uncle Adam uses fear to try to teach you things. Does that work well for you?" for example. Or, "You feel supported by Grandpa, don't you?"
High five to you for opening yourself to receive more support and to let your child grow in his/her sense of living in village.
I sure appreciate it, every time one of my friends leans in to guide my child. It's like a relief tattoo on my forehead! Except, it doesn't hurt. (Thanks, friends.)
Jessica Rios, Founder of Leaning into Light, is a mother, coach, lifelong letter writer, and eternal fan of Mr. (Fred) Rogers. This deeply personal blog and our free recorded conversations are devoted to one of her greatest passions: illuminating the beauty of the human spirit.