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Natural Awakenings Boston

The Joys and Challenges of Parenting: Letter from the Editor

Nancy Somera, Managing Editor

As both my children enter new phases of their lives—one is off to college this month and another starting high school—my husband and I have been reflecting on the effectiveness of our parenting over the past 18 years. Did we raise our son to be an effective problem solver poised to be a positive contributor to the world? Have we raised a confident daughter who will make good decisions and respect herself and others when she is put to the test by her peers?

Depending on each situation, age of the kids, our moods and stress levels, and an unmentionable amount of other variables, our opinion about the job we all do as parents can waffle between “Job well done!” and “I hope we didn’t mess it up too much!” Luckily, parenting isn’t about being perfect, so we all can, in our own way and with separate styles, measure up as parents as long as we are present and pay attention. Our feature article, by Meredith Montgomery, tells us just how to do that.

My son attributes his readiness for college to our ability in knowing when to let the line out with him, and when to reel it in. He shares that we judiciously selected teachable moments along the way but understood when to step aside and allow him to learn for himself. “You dealt with the hard conversations straight on,” he says, realizing that however uncomfortable it may have been at the time, skirting around those tough issues wouldn’t have served him well. And according to him, the most important trait we instilled in him: Discipline yourself so no one else has to.

Because my 14-year-old daughter often claims we’re not fair, (and we all know that according to our kids, that’s a big parenting no-no), I asked for her thoughts, too. She expressed she depends on the good sense we instilled in her when it comes to right and wrong. Time will tell, as she makes more and more choices for herself, if her definition of right and wrong matches our own. In our favor is her experience of us holding her accountable for the choices she makes. She calls it fear of punishment; we call it parenting.

She is learning that with greater freedom comes more responsibility. As she continues to learn life’s lessons, mostly through trial and error, I welcome the inevitable opportunities that will arise for me to pick her up when she falls while I’m still around to do it. At the same time, I pray that her choices result only in emotional bumps and bruises in need of healing rather than something physical and more serious in nature. What about teenage girl drama? “Grace beats hurt feelings,” she advises, which is exactly what my own mother taught me during those difficult-to-navigate years.

In the end, we are no different than our children; we learn better parenting through the mistakes we make along the way. When we really listen and tune in to our kids’ needs, they teach us exactly what they need from us as parents. It simply takes a steadfastness to do what is needed, when it’s needed, even when it’s hard to do so. Roots and wings—the two greatest gifts we can offer our children.

To equally enjoying the joys and challenges of parenting,

Nancy Somera, Managing Editor