thing 1

Nothing like driving with your daughter sitting next to you and an advertisement for Dr. Phil’s interview with Lindsay Lohan’s mom comes on the radio.  My girls loved Lindsay Lohan in Parent Trap. They have no clue about her train-wreck of a life and they can’t understand why the station would be promo-ing a supposedly drunk mother saying weird and inappropriate things about her daughter to Dr. Phil.

At the end of the promo, the D.J. asks his co-host, “Boy, it makes you wonder what that one thing to mess up your kid might be.” She chimes in, “Yeah… you want to steer clear of that …whatever it is.”

I started to wonder myself. What is that thing?

That “one thing” scares a parent silly. We probably think about it a lot more than we would like to admit. Am I talking to much to my kid? too little? Does it really matter if she wears that outfit? Will he be ruined if he plays that game? And we start so early … when they’re itty-bittys. Breast feeding, formula, playgroups, Little Gym, swim lessons, cloth diapers, education videos, organic, home-made, and on we go. Then add to the mix home/charter/public school decisions. Sports – how early should they start. Competitive or recreational? Will all our efforts and “guidance” give them the options they need years down the road? … or will they end up like Miss Lohan? Seemingly washed up at the ripe old age of 26 with Dr. Phil calling you in so he can interview the loser parent.

I remember when I had our first child. He was textbook colic. Cried all day every day, except when he was eating or sleeping. At his two-week check-up, the pediatrician looked at my screamer and told me that he would most likely be inconsolable for four to six months. I had barely lived through the first two weeks. How was I supposed to survive four to six months? Throw in a lot of friends who had been doing it right with their well-adjusted, scheduled babies and I was toast. I’m not sure I’ve ever been so down.

Thankfully a friend of mine, a grandmother who had walked the road with her own grown children, gave me a wonderful book by a Harvard professor called The First Three Years. In his book, Dr Burton L White methodically informs the reader of developmental phases for babies as they grow to their third year.

I found it all interesting, even compelling at times. Though gave that book away years ago, I still hold onto a theme he repeated again and again: if you love – really love – your child, he/she will be okay.

I remember trying to no avail every method to stop my baby crying. I often wondered if I was ruining him by rocking him or driving around the block over and over so he would go to sleep. Was my flawed method of parenting going to be the “one thing” to make or break his little life? Then I would ask myself, am I loving him the best that I can? And in my affirmative answer, I would bank on Dr. White’s encouragement and give myself a break.

Maybe that’s part of the teen/tween answer. What are my intentions? Am I performing for the acceptance/approval of others (coaches, teachers, other parents, …) or is loving my kid at the center of my motivation? If love is the answer… then maybe I need to give myself a break. And the great thing is … just like that 4-6 month diagnosis that seemed unbearable at the time and barely memorable now, I’m pretty sure the teen bumps will be a distant blur in but a few short years.

Maybe that “one thing” that can mess up your kids life, is forgetting about the love part. The selfless, sticking with, enduring the cry, weathering the whine, tough and gentle love that keeps on keepin’ on no matter what the kid does. I’m pretty sure I’m going to do things “wrong” (…all of my babies were stomach sleepers. There. I’ve admitted it.), but maybe there is more than one “right” way to get us to the other side – banking on love to cover a multitude of errors.

I’m curious about your thoughts on the “one thing” question that I know we all ask ourselves. Feel free to join in. Until then, here’s hoping none of us are future fodder for Dr. Phil and his gasping audience.

Thanks for walking the road with me.


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