Last week I tried to convince all the other Mums and Dads out there to allow a little philosophy into their lives.
I mentioned three key pondering-pillars that underpin so much philosophical enquiry. These are truth, beauty and goodness. Today, I’m thinking about truth.
One of the key human attributes that separates us from the other animals is surely our relentless pursuit of the truth.
Sometimes it costs us our friends, sometimes our relationships, sometimes our lives. It’s a virtue. An honourable thing. It benefits each of us as individuals and our species as a whole. Searching for the truth ensures justice, ensures progress, ensures we sleep well at night.
As parents, we tirelessly strive to teach to tell the truth. The truth is good. To lie is bad. It is more important to many of us that our kids grow up to live a real, truthful life than a happy one.
But when it comes to living a life full of purpose, where our kids can find contentment and where they can flourish, what is the ‘right’ way? What is the ‘truth’ when it comes to parenting?
If you could pop into your time machine to visit Plato, he’d assure you that there is one ‘truth’ when it comes to being a Mum. One perfect ‘form’ of a parent floating around somewhere in the ether. While we could never ever be that perfect form, it is up to us to look into the light and find that form for ourselves, and to then try our best to eminate it.
This image of the perfect parent is often what we feel we need to strive towards. It’s why we sometimes cling to the Gina Fords and Baby Whisperers and Biddulphs and stats and surveys and articles telling us the ‘truth’ of how to get the the kids to sleep, eat and be happy.
We try to do what we are told, to eminate the truth. We fail. We feel terrible. We detest those who claim ‘it worked for me’, those perfect parents. The truth of the matter is we can’t do it. We just aren’t good enough.
That, though, just is not true.
When it comes to all aspects of being human – creativity, language, humour, seeking justice, engineering – the idea that there is just one right way is a nonsense.
It’s not to say anything goes – clearly that is not right. It’s more like those blind guys trying to describe the elephant based upon what they were feeling: one describes a snake like creature, the other a wall, the other a tree trunk, the other a swishing rope. They all speak the truth yet they all describe such different things.
Parenting, like the elephant, is such a big topic that it is impossible to say there is one true version of how to do it. It depends not just on the thing we are trying to understand (being a Mum or Dad) but our perpsective, our upbringing, our circumstances, our genes, our temperament and the kids’ whims and wishes.
How to do it best depends on a detailed understanding of all these subtleties and little differences that make this hugely common condition such a unique experience to each of us. Only I can every really understand what makes up my version of being a Mum. Sure information from others can be incredibly helpful, but information provided by someone else cannot ever amount to the truth of how I should approach raising my kids. Only I can work that out. Scary, eh?
Anybody who tries to undermine our confidence by suggesting their version of the truth is going to guarantee us happiness or ‘success’ as a parent ought to be treated with suspicion.
The truth is you are a loving parent, a good person, perfect because of and not in spite of your imperfections.
It’s daunting but you can review all the information out there and determine the truth for yourself.
You can do it because you are human, and that is what being human is all about, isn’t it?
For this weeks mind-me-time consider this:
Close your eyes and conjure up the image of the perfect parent.
Open your eyes and ask yourself what did you see? Someone you know? Are they male or female? Are they married, single, in a same sex relationship? What do they look like? What expression are they wearing? What is their tone of voice? What is it about them that is so bloody perfect?
Let me know!