Thursday, January 17, 2019

I'm Not A Parenting Expert

It was the end of the day. There were still a few children with their parents in the mud room while I was alone in the classroom. Their voices carried down the hall. I heard one mother's voice in particular calmly explaining the situation to her fussy two-year-old. She was warm and firm, telling it like it is as lovingly as possible. This is the mother I know, a thoughtful, present, good-natured mom raising unique and wonderful children.

As I listened to her voice I thought of the journey I've been on with her family these past three years, one I hope will continue for two more. She is not the parent she was back then (nor am I the teacher, for that matter). This was not the conversation she would have had three years ago when her first two-year-old needed the situation explained. She might have said the same words, perhaps even in the same tone of voice, but without the confidence that comes with experience.

This parent is not the only one who has travelled this way, growing from a new parent to a seasoned one. I've been witness as she has developed her own style, acquired her skills, and otherwise practiced being the parent she wants to be over these past years. I'm sure if I asked her, she would say she's not "there" yet, but no one ever is: this job of being a parent is one that doesn't allow you to rest on your laurels, nor does it give you time to lick your wounds. Parenting is a process of progress one that develops day-by-day, even moment-by-moment, and just when you threaten to get pretty good at something, your child's development makes it moot.

I'm not a parenting expert, although I'm quite knowledgeable about being the parent of one particular child up to the age of 22. After that, I know nothing other than that I am confident I'll be up to whatever comes next. I'm not a parenting expert, but I've travelled shoulder-to-shoulder with hundreds of parents as they've journeyed through their children's preschool years, and I've had the inspiring privilege of seeing them, time and again, grow into damn fine parents. I'm not a parenting expert, but after two decade in preschool classrooms, I'm now quite confident that I can figure out how to connect with any child. And as a cooperative preschool teacher everything I do with children, both my successes and failures, has been on display for a roomful of new parents. I'm not a parenting expert, but parents often tell me that my role modeling in the classroom has helped them "become a better parent."

This, of course, is the greatest compliment of all.

As I heard this mother's voice echoing down the hallway, I imagined I heard a bit of myself in her words. Or maybe it isn't me I heard as much as the collective parenting culture that grows and thrives here at Woodland Park, one in which we are, in a very real sense, learning together, parenting together. Whatever the case, I stood for a time basking in her words, her tone, her confidence, as her fussy two-year-old became less fussy.

I'm not a parenting expert, but I sure know good parenting when I see it and I see it all around me. What an honor it is to be along for the ride.

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