Something not many people talk about is how genuinely terrifying it is to be a parent. Not just at the beginning when they are infants and you catch yourself repeatedly up in the night checking they are still breathing (or if you’re like me, for the duration of their lives), but add to that all the threats of the outside world alongside the biggest threat of all - your own internal world of flaws and shortcomings that will definitely negatively affect them as you stumble though rearing them. It’s really easy to feel like if you put one foot down wrong, you will cause lifelong damage to your child.
After twenty years of bumbling through the task of child-rearing (nearly thirty if you count all the surrogate mothering I did with my baby sister …but that’s a story for another day) and making a myriad of ‘mistakes’ along the way, I have come to believe that the single most important thing you can do is offer consistent loving care and apologise to them when you mess up.
When you make a mistake, lose your temper, shout at or grow impatient with them (and you will) apologise and own the fault as yours and not theirs. From this they will learn resilience and accountability, which will give them the ability to accept responsibility for their own slip ups and to transform seemingly ‘bad’ situations into positive outcomes.
Be with your children in a thoughtful way. Be present. Kids do not need excessive material goods or an abundance of gifts and trips. The best gift you can give them is presence of mind. Children are like little radios that pick up on our frequencies. When they feel you thinking about them they experience being held and connected to you in your mind.
So master the art of being there thoughtfully. Notice them. Praise them. Do simple things with them. And throw away the myriad of books and opinions of those who keep telling you you’re doing it all wrong. If they are loved and cared for, they will be just fine.