A few days ago I participated in a big reunion, on Facebook, of members from an attachment parenting site I used to frequent, um, frequently in the first decade of this century. It was a lot of fun to catch up on everyone's lives and see photos of the much bigger children I used to read about when they were babies.
Many of us have children who are now tweens or teens and I realised this might be a good opportunity to get some feedback on how parents are dealing with those non-baby issues that arise in parenting older children.
For me, the big issue was behaviour in one of my children I found unbecoming. Behaviour I wanted to change in my child because I felt it was too rough and pointy, like the edge of a rock. Behaviour I felt it was ugly and didn't fit the image I had of my child as a grown up, all smoothed out and polished and attractive (I'm not talking appearance, but personality or behaviour).
As I mulled this over with another parent, an idea emerged for me about the nature of parenting in the long term.
I think some parents - not all, but some - parents like me, have a baby and it's like discovering a diamond in rock. We see the rough rock, but we also see the jewel and we're amazed at our discovery.
The years pass and we work on diminishing our precious child's rough edges.
Some of us see a rough edge and we just want to knock it off, get rid of it, fix it - and quickly - because it is unappealing to us. So we use some force, we try to manipulate the rock, but if we're not careful, if we're too gung-ho about it, we find we create a new rough edge; we may even knock off some of the good stuff as well as the rough edge we initially intended to 'fix'.
Another way to bring out the best qualities in a child and smooth out those rough edge is to parent like water on a rock*; gently and consistently flowing over our child with what we'd like them to develop. Modelling and whispering in their ears the qualities we admire, and allowing their natural beauty to emerge over time as the rough edges melt away.
This approach requires a lot of trust. It requires us to trust that if we gently but consistently influence out children with the behaviours and personality traits we want to bring out in them, without damaging their natural beauty, we will eventually see the jewel we saw in our child at birth - in all it's glorious beauty.
I realised I can't force my child to stop the ugly behaviours I perceive in him, I can only gently and consistently guide him towards the beauty I know he possesses (I know because I see glimpses of it all the time) and trust that my words of encourage will eventually allow the beauty to emerge when the roughness melts away.
*this is an imperfect metaphor regarding how diamonds are cleaned up and faceted, but the I couldn't come up with anything that fit perfectly - metaphors are rarely perfect.