The other week I turned down the invitation to speak to a preschool. Politely, I hope. I said something like “my recent encounters with preschool groups have had unreliable outcomes.” There’s more (and less) to it, but I’ve applied the rule of three: when things don’t go quite the way you expect three times in a row, it’s a good time to turn in another direction.
I’ve suddenly realized I don’t have much to say about how to raise your kids.
You probably aren’t surprised, since I blew my own lid off about this topic a couple of months ago with a rant about the proliferation of cynical parenting advice and so-called scientific breakthroughs. The piece is reprinted in this month’s Get Born magazine, and that’s a good place for it. The rant is over now; my Tea Party moment has passed. My fury birthed a clarifying truth for me: parenting is not a project! At least, my parenting is not a project. Ten years into the blitzkrieg of late-life motherhood, I’ve recognized that kids do a pretty good job of growing up by themselves. Thank goodness, because parents like me can make a mess out of the simplest things.
This is not to say I don’t stand by Momma Zen. It is as sweet and disarming a book of no-parenting advice as any out there, and more popular than ever. I’m happy it turned out okay all by itself.
My daughter is 10. We are likely to be enemies any day now, then wary survivors, before our amity is once again restored. I can attest how wonderful 10-year-olds can be: how purely emotional, brutally honest, sincere, enthusiastic, coy, shrewd, and worldly wise. And I can tell you that my daughter at 10 years is exactly the same girl she showed herself to be at 10 months. She has never been anyone but wholly, recognizably herself, all the while I have been occupying myself with pushing a wooden bead along a circuitous route. (Hey, they said it was educational.)
I feel I have to warn you that my new book is not about parenting. Well, there’s one chapter about parenting, and it goes ike this:
As parents, we think our job is to create an ideal outcome — a happier child, a smarter child, a more successful child. It’s a silly notion, isn’t it? That we are supposed to shape something presidential out of what looks like seven pounds of putty in our palm. The pressure alone makes us feel as though we’re doomed to fail. But this focus on the future outcome blinds us to the marvel that already appears before us. It’s not putty. Babies aren’t blobs. Do we ever notice, and trust, the wonder of life happening continually and miraculously by itself?
When you let yourself off the parenting hook, you might find, as I did, that your purview is far larger. You can get on with the laundry, the kitchen and the yard. You can get on with breakfast, lunch and dinner. You can get on with things as they are, not as you wish, worry or dread. You can get on with your life, as long as you understand my point. As long as you can handle the complete freedom from fear and the release from your own critical judgment. Your life isn’t a project either!
School’s out, and you graduated.