Okay, hold the phone. I am about to throw down the only parenting advice you need. I am qualified to offer this advice because I am old and grizzled and I’ve climbed out on the other side of the deep, jagged crevice that is parenting. Snatch the pebble from my hand, grasshopper.
My children are grown now, but when they were small, it became apparent early on that our home probably wasn’t going to function like everyone else’s. At the time, my husbands employment entailed three things: 1. long periods of overseas travel, 2. danger and 3. anonymity. It was pretty clear we weren’t going to be living a Full House-type of existence. No, the Tanner family we most certainly, were not. It was also clear that a traditional school schedule wasn’t going to jive with my husband’s job and our need to remain sane as a family.
Our oldest son was in kindergarten at the time and I will never forget the day that my husband and I stood in our kitchen, looking at each other incredulously, and I muttered the words, “HOMESCHOOLING??………. Seriously?” It was a completely terrifying prospect. You must understand that this was 20 years ago. Homeschooling wasn’t considered “alternative” back then. It was considered down right odd. The word conjured up images of closed, gated communities and women who wore long, denim jumpers and never cut their hair. And while that’s all fine, I had a religiously kept, every 4 week appointment at the salon. I figured I wasn’t going to blend in well.
After considering our options, I looked at our bright, sweet little boy and I said, “What the heck? It’s first grade! I can’t screw him up too badly in one year, right?” I wish I were joking, but that’s EXACTLY what I said. My husband smiled nervously and we agreed to reevaluate at the end of the school year.
Fast forward 20 some years and all three of our kids were home schooled. They graduated and were accepted into their respective colleges of choice, I still hit the salon every four weeks, and they are all out living independent, happy lives. We hardly screwed them up at all!
But this isn’t a post about homeschooling.
It is humbling to me when I am asked for parenting advice from young parents who know our family. I always give the same bit of deep, sage wisdom that can only come from fighting it out in the trenches of parenthood and living to tell the tale. I had some kind mothers who passed this advice on to me in my most desperate hours and I clung to it dearly over the years. It really was the very best parenting advice I ever received.
Are you ready for this golden nugget of parenting wisdom?
Here it is: Go With Your Gut.
While I haven’t laid this out very ceremoniously, it is with the deepest sincerity and conviction that I give this advice.
My dear moms (and dads), in all the world over, there is no other human being who will have your child’s best interests at heart more than you. No one knows that child as you do. No one else is going to walk through fire and back for that child like you will. Of course, ask for advice, seek out help from those you trust, research the heck out of whatever the issue is, but then weigh it against what YOU know of YOUR child… and go with your gut.
If a situation in your child’s life doesn’t feel right, don’t be afraid to change it. Even if it isn’t popular. Don’t ever be afraid to think outside the box. It isn’t easy to go against conventional society, but there will be times that you just have to do what is best for your family. Others will doubt your choices and you will doubt yourself. (And from personal experience, I’ll tell you it’s not always the best topic to bring up at cocktail parties.) Nevertheless, let me offer you encouragement from one mom to another. As a parent, whether through birth or through the blessing of adoption, you have been given the unique gift to know your child better than anyone and you alone know if your child is flourishing.
So, by all means, consult the experts, research it to death (looking at you sweet, millennial mamas) and then go with your gut. You are the subject matter expert of your child, so step out with confidence. Don’t be afraid to rattle a few cages if necessary, to make things optimal for your child.
The most unlikely changes can bring about the most beautiful results. Go with your gut.