In six days, my daughter will be 23 years old. Being the parent of a young adult has given me a new perspective and a deeper appreciation of what is important.
From my new view, here are a few things that show up as meaningful in raising a child. Some have been a constant. Many have taken a lot of practice.
Listen. This is so true in any relationship, and it is vital in our relationships with our children. We all want to be heard. Because we always hear and interpret through our own filters, learning to deeply listen — to attune to someone — can mean peeling away many layers. I finally got something earlier this year that my daughter had been expressing for a decade. It was a jolt of understanding followed by amazement. How could I have not heard her until that moment?
Appreciate their unique perspective and path. When our children are infants, we focus on milestones, measuring when they walk and talk. When they enter school, the long-haul focus on grades and achievement begins. There is such pressure to win, score, be the best. Be at ease with your child’s unique way of looking at the world, of operating in the world and of walking through the world. Avoid getting caught up in the external measurements.
Enjoy unstructured downtime. It is the space between things that can be so meaningful. Brushing her hair, not in preparation for school or an event, but simply for the luxurious pleasure we both received, was meaningful, as was sitting on a log watching whales spout as we would each shout, “Look!” Hanging out on the couch talking with grandparents or friends, making gyozas, soaking in a hot tub and walking in the woods without a timeline or destination all make for meaningful time spent together.
Make amends and teach your child to make amends. I yelled, I assumed, I judged and I made mistakes. I still do. When that happens, make amends. Repair the relationship. Let them know how you will do it differently the next time. Our children learn that we are growing, too.
Don’t take it personally. This certainly is not an original thought. Don Miguel Ruiz spelled it out in The Four Agreements. Without fail, if I am taking something personally, there is something for me to learn, many times something profound. For example, when I felt triggered by my daughter’s fifth grade sassy tone, I learned about the limiting beliefs that I had around respect. That new view changed everything — from the way I spoke with her to the way I felt.
For 23 years, my daughter has spelled out what is important in life. I am so grateful for her guidance.