Parenting yourself so you can parent your kids

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I read something today about parenting that I wanted to try to hold on to and remember later. It was an idea from Austin Kleon’s recent post Give yourself what you needed then and give your kids what they need now and, after reading about it, I went down a little Kleon-hole. Here is the main line:

“Perhaps the immutable error of parenthood is that we give our children what we wanted, whether they want it or not.”

Andrew Solomon, Far From The Tree

And then, this bit about unlived lives struck me:

Carl Jung said that nothing had a bigger influence on the child than the unlived life of the parent. Those unlived lives linger.

I would say that we all have a lot of partially lived lives and we mistakenly think, “If only I had done more of that as a kid, I’d be a (fill in the blank) at this point!” Naturally, we want to teach this important lesson to our kids. Another article from Austin adds a connection with this idea of how hard we try with our kids to make them see:

I try so hard to provide the life I always wanted for my boys, and I want so much for them to enjoy the things I love, to see me working, and to work alongside me.

I can definitely relate to that. We all try hard to make our kids see what we see in things (really, they MUST UNDERSTAND how nothing can beat late nineties rap music!!!), but really, these efforts are more for us as parents to realize pieces of ourselves that we thought we might never get a chance to. This “reparenting” of ourselves is not only totally fine, it’s necessary to being a good parent.

OK, one last article from Austin to make a perfect circle with the connection:

Becoming a parent is also an opportunity to treat yourself more tenderly, to forgive yourself, to forgive your own parents, and move on: Live your own life, love what you love, care what you genuinely care about, and give yourself the freedom and opportunity to go about your days in a way that unlocks who you really are.

This is the clincher. You can’t force your kids to like what you like, or need what you need, but you certainly need to enjoy whatever it is regardless. You can’t inspire and care for your kids if you can’t inspire and care for yourself.

“Being wisely selfish and being selfless can amount to very much the same thing.”

Sam Harris, Waking Up

Comments welcome!