Inside: It’s challenging to manage the big emotions when the dreams we have for our kids don’t come to fruition, but such a necessary part of parenting a teenager.
When it comes to motherhood, no book, podcast, or conversation can prepare us for the cosmic rush of love that infiltrates our chest the moment we first lay eyes on our child. Nor can anyone prepare us for the savage ache we’ll feel in all the moments of duress while raising them—especially during the tween and teen years.
The depth and nuance of a mother’s love far exceed the constraints of language. You simply know what this kind of love does to you when you know.
For me, the love I have for my kids swallowed me whole.
The other thing that consumed me was the story I was telling myself about how motherhood would play out. I had an epic list of expectations and lofty dreams about how my children’s lives would unfold, not to mention boatloads of preconceived beliefs and ideals about how to be a mom, including how I would behave and feel.
Can anyone relate?
Then I was in the middle of motherhood, and, well, need I say more?
Motherhood is the ultimate reminder that we should never expect what we are expecting. When we pigeonhole our ideals and cling to a list of ‘shoulds,’ we merely limit our experience and set ourselves up for despair.
Letting go of our preconceived expectations about parenting
The challenge for all of us is learning how to respond and adapt when our fairytale narrative about how motherhood will look starts to unravel, or our scripted dreams for our kid’s future don’t pan out the way we envisioned.
Through 28 years of watching my best-laid mental plans about motherhood crack beneath my feet, I’ve learned the most viable action is to move from our head and all its posturing into our heart and its intuitive nature—from fear to love.
The idea that our wish is motherhood’s command is an illusion.
We know this deep down. Living from love looks like being fully present and loving the children standing in front of us, exactly as they are, to the best of our ability in any given circumstance.
It also looks like loving ourselves in the same way. This is the real deal. This is what we can control. This is what our children need most. This is where we flourish alongside them.
We do this when we let go of all the mental bartering about how reality isn’t matching our preconceived scripts and focus our attention on the abundance of what is right in front of us. Where attention goes, energy flows, and what we resist persists.
So, rather than draining our reserves by railing against the seeming lack of what isn’t going according to plan, we serve ourselves and our kids well when we look for the good in every situation and make peace with it the best we can.
Parenting often doesn’t go how you planned
Our teen daughter coming out as bisexual to us seven years ago drove the importance of these truths home.
We assured her of our unconditional love and acceptance and championed the certainty of her worth. We told her never to doubt God’s love, no matter what anyone else says, and to believe God, and we had her back. But I still struggled to process the incongruence between the reality in front of me and what I’d mentally rehearsed about her future.
I don’t think there’s a mother on the planet who doesn’t want her child to be fully seen, fully heard, and fully loved by others. This is even more so when you parent a gay teen.
So, out of fear, I worried about how she would fare in a world that may not accept her as the beautiful human I knew she was. Out of fear, I struggled to let go of the love story I’d penned in my mind that saw her marrying a man who would love and protect her from harm in a world that now felt even more unsafe. Out of fear, I agonized over whether I’d do the right things for her going forward.
But in the end, all I needed to do was move into my heart and fiercely love my daughter. I needed to surrender the fears in my head and let LOVE guide both of us forward. That shift made all the difference.
Looking back, I now see how much I invested in the mental mapping of all three of my kids’ futures.
While all of us as parents have dreams for our kids, it’s humbling to be reminded that our dreams aren’t their dreams.
What we think is best or right or suited for them is based on our map of the world, which isn’t their map. They have their own internal compass, desires, and pockets full of hopes.
When you find joy in simply observing and watching our kids’ lives unfold, the stress from unmet expectations falls away.
Knowing our children are healthy, happy, and whole is the most potent drug on the planet.
And the best way to contribute to this trifecta of ideals is to let go of expectations, hold the dreams for our kids loosely, and love them with abandon as we watch life teach both of us.
Life is a learning school and letting go of our fear of the unknown and accepting that we are not in control of anything but ourselves creates a sanctuary of peace and joy with a forever shelf life for both mother and child as we find our way and become who we are.
Shelby is a Certified Emotional Intelligence Coach, Certified Meditation Teacher (CMT), author, freelance writer, speaker, and love enthusiast who is passionate about helping others change the way they look at things so the things they look at change”. She is the co-author of the book, How Are You Feeling, Momma? (You don’t need to say, “I’m fine.”) and has numerous stories featured in the national publication, Guideposts, 160+ featured articles around the web, and blogs at shelbyspear.com