172. Daring the Devil

In many cultures, including my own, it’s considered bad luck to comment on how well things seem to be going. Even some people who believe in a Supreme Being Who is beneficent are nevertheless susceptible to this kind of superstition. And we have a proverb that tells us, “Pride goeth before the fall.” And to make matters worse, people have a tendency to be insecure anyway.
Yesterday, I spoke with a parent I admire. Her sensitive, patient parenting is not just a show; I know both of her children, and it is very clear to me that these children feel loved, and are used to being heard. I don’t know how much of these blessings come from the mother, how much from the father, how much from the couple, and who else has contributed. I’m trying to contribute, too. But even when the whole village participates, there’s nothing quite like good
parenting to give children what they need most. But this mother wonders whether she’s really doing her job well. She sometimes loses patience and yells at her children. She always apologizes afterwards, but she feels as if she yells too much. She worries that her children will be damaged by this aspect of her fallibility. At the risk of daring the devil, I’m going to say it: she’s a good parent. And there’s a lot of you guys around. I’m a good parent. The mother of my daughters is a good parent. As I write these articles, occasionally pointing out problems and making suggestions, I respect the people who are doing what I consider the most important job in the world – helping children grow. Teachers do this job, too, but they get to go home afterwards. Some go home and parent. I don’t know how they do it, or how I did it. It has wonderful rewards, as does teaching, but it’s a lot of work. It’s not an exact science. The more I learn about various approaches to learning and living, the less I believe in exact science, anyway. I wonder whether even chemistry and physics are really exact sciences. But parenting certainly isn’t, and though parents I admire may share a few approaches – caring, loving, listening to children – they have all kinds of philosophies about parenting, ways to set limits, attitudes toward schooling, etc. And new owners’ manuals are constantly coming out. Culture, superstition, and insecurity notwithstanding, I’d like you to entertain the possibility that despite your occasional loss of patience and sensitivity, it’s not out of the question that you may be a good parent.

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