Parenting Yourself

With Mother’s Day fast approaching, I’ve been reflecting on the topic of parenting, and what it means to parent beyond the obvious role of rearing young children. Probably one of the greatest challenges we face—learning to parent ourself—brings with it the possibility of cultivating a tool powerful enough to sustain us through the most difficult of times.

While no man is an island, at the end of the day, we each are individuals, and as such we are responsible for supporting, evaluating, and sustaining ourselves to a degree that no one else can match. This role becomes especially important during challenging times when it can feel as if we have nobody to turn to or no one who can fully understand. So, what does it mean to parent oneself?

Well, when I use this phrase, what I mean is making the solemn decision that no matter what else anyone may say or think about me, I have the maturity, wisdom, and compassion to best assess my behavior, efforts, and attitudes truthfully and that I know I am a worthwhile person in word and deed whether or not anyone else agrees. This premise is not to suggest that I have no weaknesses or petty instincts or the occasional, ungenerous thought. But what it reflects is a core and unwavering conviction that, despite my mistakes or shortcomings, I know I bring value to this world. What about you? Is this voice alive inside of you?

In a past chapter of my life, I faced a time that felt very bleak indeed. Immersed in a toxic pool from which I was terrified to escape, I was confronted by a series of assaults on my character and performance—with next to nothing I could do to defend myself at that time. What kept me sane and kept me going was my ability to talk myself through such episodes, reassuring my frightened and panicky mind that I knew what the truth was, determined to behave in a manner that would make me proud. In other words, I was parenting myself. It was this reassuring and stalwart voice that sustained me as I scrambled to cope with an enraged and ruthless combatant without succumbing to significant temptation to strike back. This voice provided the strength and fortitude to look beyond my immediate distress and choose to reach for my aspirational self, for the me who I could be proud of for the rest of my life. And so I did.

This is what I mean when I talk about parenting oneself.

No one else can truly know what went through my heart and my head as I endured a multi-year attack facing someone whose behavior grew in venom as they increasingly felt more desperate and frustrated by their inability to provoke me. But I know how I behaved and I also know that the core reason I can hold my head up high and type these words at all are because of this self-parenting. The support of others is critical to our success, of course it is, but there are those quiet moments, in the dark of night or the silence of a room, where what we do or decide depends fully on us and us alone. What do we believe about ourselves? Who do we want to be? Are we strong enough and disciplined enough to get there?

The answer lies within. We already know what our moms would say.

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One Response to “Parenting Yourself”

  1. Julianne Crispin Says:

    Well said, Rett!

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