Have you ever read a book on parenting?
There is no shortage.
I’ve read several myself. I still read them. Although, it’s laughable now for me to look back and remember my first-time pregnant self reading about how to connect and encourage young adolescent children.
I should have been reading the directions on how to fold my double stroller instead. Perhaps not as noble, but that would’ve actually been much more helpful at the moment.
I’ve already forgotten all those tips for raising teens, and my boys aren’t even 5.
The parenting books aren’t all bad, though. I’ve gained practical and actionable insight. I’ve found a lot of the concepts to be helpful.
At the end of the day, though, I’ve found my greatest struggle hasn’t been answered in a book. It couldn’t be.
For me, the hardest part isn’t about having the right tips, the perfect schedule, the most researched systems or the best planned approach.
The hardest part about my parenting has been managing me — the parent.
No book can make me get on the floor when I’d rather grab my phone.
No book can add to my patience when I’m at the end of my rope.
No book can keep me from yelling when my frustration reaches its peak.
No book can choose for me compassionate words over cranky commands.
No book will ever make me a more loving mom.
I can read every parenting book on the shelves but still not wind up a better parent for it. Because, while books can create compelling arguments, they cannot move a mom or dad to action.
A book can help me know better. But often the harder part than knowing better is doing better.
I heard a wiser-than-me mom once say that the best work she ever did for her children was on herself. There is a lot of truth to that.
I’m finding it’s much easier for my kids to be what I am than what I ask them.
For better and for worse, they are very good at seeing and repeating. And much of how they operate will be a response to how my husband and I do so.
Parenting children has proved to be a lesson in parenting myself.
I’m certainly not saying children are a direct result of the way they are raised. Mine, as others, will develop their own uniqueness. They will make their own decisions, especially as they get older and grow independent from their parents. I’m sure my kids will hold views that are similar to mine as well as views that differ wildly. I hope to hold that with grace.
But I also know this: Their years under my roof are short, and they absorb more through my actions than they do through my words.
I am passionate about parenting, and although I’ve already messed up a million times and will do so a million more, I still want to do the best I can.
I’m learning the better a woman I can be, myself, the better a mom I can be for them.
Every day is an opportunity — to become a better parent by becoming a better me.
Theresa Meacham’s column appears Wednesdays in The News-Gazette. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.