Our Secret Society

By Michael

Dwight Eisenhower noted that no battle plan survives the first encounter with the enemy. He could have said the same thing about parenthood. Jill and I had our plans lined up and our reactions anticipated. Then we carried Susan into an empty house and, somehow, we weren’t quite sure about anything anymore.

We were talking to some people on Christmas and the one who spoke with the greatest certainty about proper parenting was……yes, you know already don’t you???…..the person who has no children. I always hate it when someone dismisses my opinion by saying, “You can’t know because you’re not black/Asian/female/older/richer, etc.,” and yet I came up with exactly the same response. “I used to feel the same way until I had kids. Until you have children, you just won’t understand.”

I felt bad about saying it, but it’s true. In theory, all of us know exactly what to do. In practice, it turns out, black and white are only mythical colors. It’s hard to find a situation where there aren’t shades of gray.

I know I’m supposed to keep them safe, but safe from what? Can I protect them from themselves? Should I even try? I can’t put them in a plastic bubble and I can’t be with them every day. Even when they were in pre-school, I couldn’t be in the same room with them every second. Now that they’re older, I’m surprised at how often I think about running to their rescue; even if they haven’t asked for help.

Experience teaches us how to make good decisions. Very often, we get that experience by making bad decisions. The worse the decision, the more clearly we remember. I want my girls to make a lot of bad—but not really destructive—decisions while they’re younger and more resilient.

One of the toughest and bravest things we ever have to do is stand aside, let them perform without a net, and hope we haven’t picked the wrong moment to give them wings.

Michael Rosenbaum is 5 Minutes for Parenting’s first dadblogger. He is a business consultant, playwright and author of Your Name Here: Guide to Life.

Michael blogs on life issues at Your Name Here Guide to Life and manages the Adult Conversation discussion group on Linked-In.

6 Responses to Our Secret Society
  1. Melissa
    January 12, 2010 | 7:11 am

    I’m totally forwarding this one around. Thank you so much! I hate it when ANYONE tells me how to parent, but I especially hate it when non parents do. Part of it is my own insecurity, I’m sure, but part of it is that they have no clue.

  2. Kara
    January 12, 2010 | 11:11 am

    I hate when people without kids tell me how to parent! I have an aunt who thinks she knows everything about kids just cuz she’s taught preschool for 2 years, even though she’s only a year older than me and I’ve had kids of my own for over 5 years. At her last visit she complained that we never come see her and I mentioned that it’s a lot easier for a single person without kids to come see us than it is to pack up the kids and go to them. She said, “I think parent’s that use their kids as excuses are just lazy, it’s not any harder to go places with kids.” I can’t wait until she has kids and finally understands.

  3. Kelly
    January 12, 2010 | 4:36 pm

    I love that you said that, in parenting, black and white are mythical. The older (and wiser) you get as a parent, the more you know the truth of that statement.

  4. Louise
    January 14, 2010 | 11:55 am

    “Experience teaches us how to make good decisions. Very often, we get that experience by making bad decisions.”

    I am definitely writing this quote in my journal of pithy sayings. SO true!

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