September 12, 1962, President John Kennedy spoke the following words, “But why, some say, the moon? Why choose this as our goal? And they may well ask why climb the highest mountain? Why, 35 years ago, fly the Atlantic?” His response sets the stage for this episode of our podcast, “We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone . . .”.
The opportunity and ability to parent children is a blessing. Parenting, at its core, serves to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills. Parenting is a challenge and we choose to parent not because it is easy, but because it is hard. We accept this truth. We honor those who choose to accept this challenge.
Birthing children is easy for some and impossible for others. This episode is not about that. This episode is about honesty and courage in the context of parenting children, regardless of the circumstances that led to the child-parent relationship.
Today, perhaps more so than in any other American generation, opportunities to parent are abundant. One can marry into parenting or adopt children or youth. Those who are able can birth children and parent them. Cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and family friends increasingly find themselves choosing to parent children to whom they did not give birth (for a variety of circumstances).
The path to parenthood is nearly inconsequential when you find yourself in the thick of parenting. The act of parenting is difficult and to parent well will certainly call you to empty yourself time and again. We do not parent because it is easy.
“Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty… I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.” – Theodore Roosevelt
We live in a culture that tends to over-value perfection and ease. We scroll through seemingly endless posts from our family, friends, and friends of friends bragging about perfect spouses and romanticized depictions of parenthood and family life. We judge even while we envy, to our own demise, and endorse our complicity by perpetuating an aggrandized alternative reality. The casualty in this game is our sense of well-being because we come to believe our own propaganda and in so doing have lost faith in ourselves. It makes sense. We come to mistrust those who lie and betray, even more so when we are lying to ourselves.
The cure is to realign our perception of polarity on this issue. Parenting is hard and messy. It is supposed to be, and we choose to parent because it is hard. We must embrace honesty and because nothing in this world is worth doing unless it means effort, pain, and difficulty, we must express the effort, pain, and difficulty we experience in this honorable endeavor. We must honor one another’s struggle and enforce a vision of real-reality. Let’s flip the script and honor those who lead difficult lives and lead them well.
Name the struggle to tame it. It is okay to say, “I’m not okay”. Teach your children to be honest with themselves by being honest with yourself. Fend off the feeling of shame by bringing light into the dark places where you stow away your circumstances. When the hard threatens to steal your resolve deal with it, as it bubbles up, confident that there is beauty on the other side of the storm. Take time, when and where you can, to feed your soul and refresh your passion to see this hard thing through. But don’t linger in that place for longer than you need. If your legs and feet start to fall asleep . . . unlock the bathroom door and rejoin your family. You are precious to them.
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