Have you heard about the author and academic Emily Rapp? Emily lost her three year old son to the terrible disease Tay Sachs last year.
In parenting a child who would have no future, Emily learned a profound lesson.
That parenting is not about preparing your child for a successful, superior future, perhaps as a reflection of you. She learned a deep truth, in the most brutal fashion - to love her child today for the sake of love itself.
Reading interviews with Emily affects me deeply. But what could I take from this? After all my child is healthy - isn't parenting about her future? And I didn't feel like a good enough parent - surely I needed to strive to be the best I could possibly be?
The errors in my thinking became clear to me after attending a presentation course recently through work.
The presenter at this wonderful course made us all face our fears and vulnerabilities. So many of us were afraid that we were simply not good enough and we were sure to be found out.
She showed us that it was not about us. And that we could release those fears by taking the spotlight off ourselves and focusing on the audience, what they needed from us and what we could offer.
Most profoundly of all it turned out that what they needed from us was for us to have the confidence to be ourselves. To believe that what we had to offer was enough, and to stop trying to smooth out our flaws. For this was how we would engage and connect with them.
And it worked - the presentations on the second day of the course were so much more engaging and enjoyable on the second day, when everyone felt free to just be themselves.
I realised that I had let anxiety and fears into my parenting, and allowed them to damage my precious time with my daughter. Ironically, these were causing me to be a worse parent than if I just let myself be.
And this is when it hit me.
Parenting is not about me.
Not about my fears that I am inadequate and will damage my child's future.
Not about my need to counter this by trying to be better than others.
Not about my belief that I am not enough, just the way I am.
My child does not need a superior parent.
She needs my presence and love, right now.
And for me to believe that I am enough, with all my imperfections.
And to enjoy and accept her for how she is now, not as some future project.
That she is enough just as she is.
I'm not beating myself up about this. It is not surprising that I felt this way. Presumably most parents have at least one, if not both eyes on the future. And in itself, I don't think there is anything wrong with wanting the sun moon and stars for your child.
But there is something wrong with the pressure, so much pressure, to create these kids that out-pace their peers, that do better than their parents, while of course being well-adjusted, kind and compassionate members of society. We feel fear that we will be found lacking if that it not the case. That we will have failed. Wasted the opportunity.
And what pressure to heap on our children!
This pressure eats into the present, affects our time together.
It prevented me from just spending time with my child, hanging around. I felt the time spent should often involve time something educational, enriching or entertaining. I felt on show and under pressure to perform.
Gradually I realised that subconsciously I was resisting spending focused time with her. I was always busy busy busy. Anything to avoid the guilt and the admission that I just could not live up to my exacting standards.
No more. I want to enjoy my daughter for who she is today. To love her for the sake of loving her. Without an agenda.
I want to simply share my humanity with her, in all it's imperfect glory.
And believe that I am enough.
Back to Emily...
"I can see my reflection in his greenish-gold eyes. I am a reflection of him and not the other way around, and this is, I believe, as it should be. This is a love story, and like all great love stories, it is a story of loss. Parenting, I’ve come to understand, is about loving my child today. Now. In fact, for any parent, anywhere, that’s all there is."Emily Rapp