I’ve been finding myself counseling my kids lately on issues that I’M still actively working on myself – which is incredibly challenging. In my son’s case, it’s recently been about making friends (something that used to be much easier and more natural for me, but that I find really difficult these days). In my daughter’s, it’s been about strategies for managing your emotions and finding balance between regrets you have about mistakes you’ve made, learning from them, and letting them go (all things I’m slowly getting better at, but that remain a not-insignificant struggle for me.)
And then don’t even get me started on how unrelentingly difficult it is to help a very sweet and innocent 8 and 10-year-old understand Donald Trump’s America when I’m struggling so much with what to do with the realities of that myself.
Parenting is challenging and bittersweet and gut-wrenching in ways I never in a million years anticipated before I became somebody’s mom!
Maybe the fact that I’ve been thinking so much about this sort of thing lately is why this song struck me as it did:
One thing I’ve realized over time: when you’re somebody’s parent, you can’t help but look at the world with different eyes – because you have to be able to explain it or at least speak to it, all of it. And doing that requires taking a hard look at – well, everything – and questioning why things are the way they are.
And that includes questioning yourself: why do you do what you do? Live the way you live? Think the way you think? Why did you make the choices you’ve made in the past? Why are you choosing the things you’re choosing now?
And some of what you see when you take that hard look doesn’t feel that great.
A phrase from the song:
“Open the conversation, hearing what they say. Baby, I’m ashamed, I know I can’t explain why I feel this way. Ashamed of my toleration, laugh and turn away. In my life, I want to teach you what’s right so you won’t be the same…”
~Maria Taylor, “A Good Life”, from In the Next Life
And then there’s the fact that, at the end of the day, you have to deal with the reality that no matter how hard you work, how much you advise, how much you prepare these innocent little people to head out into the world, you can’t control….anything. You just have to send them out and hope that nobody hurts them (knowing that that’s not going to happen) and that they’ll make the right decisions (knowing that they won’t all the time.)
You, as a parent, are, at base, disconcertingly powerless. As the song notes:
“All I can do is promise you a better start.”
This was the line that really got me, though:
“I get scared for the world you were born into, while you stand wide-eyed in the doorway…”
That imagery just really captured how I feel about my kids right now. At 8 and 10, they’re at a threshold. They’re venturing out more and more on their own – but yet, they’re still so incredibly innocent and inclined to run back to me for protection and answers and to make things right. And it’s getting harder and harder to do that for them effectively. (Toddler problems were considerably easier to mend!)
I can be their friend…I can give them advice, share my experiences and mess-ups. But I can’t swoop in and fix things anymore.
Knowing that is the biggest challenge of all for me, as a mom.
I really like this song (and its album.) Maria Taylor is a master of hitting on really deep essential truths, framing them in seeming simplicity.
Maybe it’s just that she’s about my age, with kids near my kids’ age – and perhaps a similar life outlook. Maybe I just understand her perspective on things at a gut level. But whatever it is, her songs, when they hit me, tend to hit me very deeply!
Bottom line: I think there should be more songs like this floating around in the world! I have nothing against, say, love songs – but for all the millions and millions of them out there, it would be really interesting if more songwriters were writing in this very thoughtful way about what it is to be a parent.