A New Year’s Love Letter to Parents

Dear Parents,

As we anticipate the coming of a new year, we have an opportunity to take an all-important reflective pause and consider all that we’ve learned over the past year. We’ve had to make choices in our sacred responsibility as leaders of our families and responsible decision-makers for our children that we never dreamed we’d have to make. Go visit Grandma and put her at risk or break her heart by staying home. Allow your asthmatic son to participate in basketball with no protection on the court while COVD numbers rise or take away a beloved pastime. Travel with your family to see loved ones including an unvaccinated younger child or yet again, break hearts by cancelling. As we’ve made these extraordinary decisions, we’ve weighed short term impacts and long term impacts to each and every person involved including the systems they are a part of and the values and commitments we hold dear. Who’s to say what’s right, wrong, or sketchy? In our current context, there are a thousand more questions than answers.

While navigating through these challenges, we’ve sustained losses from illnesses, injuries, and deaths to relationship strain or even estrangement, work or personal life burnout, and depression and anxiety. The stress has taken its toll and does not go unacknowledged and cannot be forgotten.

And… there are gifts worth acknowledging this holiday season. In the past, if we were having a personal or family crisis, we felt alone in our anger or sorrow and perhaps misunderstood. Now, as the world faces a similar range of difficult choices, we, at least, can take heart that we are in this together and we are stronger if we work together to navigate the complexities. Viruses are unaware of our political divides or belief silos. COVID cells do not discriminate by opinion but only look for openings to infect new hosts wherever they can find them. The virus is working hard to learn. Are we?

For me, that gift of learning begins with a letting go and then, advances with a letting come. New times call for new habits of mind and one challenge posed to us currently is: how can I let go of judging others? And that is far from simple. In fact, our quick reflex or reactive set point is programmed to judge. And judgment of ideas and of problems is vital to our responsible decision-making and well-being but judging people only isolates us AND importantly, closes the door to learning. Just as no one religion or science has figured out with certainty every mystery of our universe but offers vital insights and wisdom to aspects of it so too, people’s wide range of experiences and perspectives can inform our ability to grow and develop. If we are on a confident parent pathway, then that growth is our central vocation. We can best support our children’s development when we utilize every opportunity to learn and grow ourselves. 

That habit of mind change requires constant rehearsal. With ease, my mind drifts from “can you believe she…” to “how could he possibly…” like an experienced acrobat swinging on a mental trapeze moving from judgment thought to judgment thought. And we get a jolt of self-righteous satisfaction as a reward. “I am so much smarter than those people,” our reactive mind humphs in a “told-ya-so” tone. And that’s the moment where our mind resolves that it’s finished exploring the issue. No learning here.

Instead, we have to cultivate the discipline of pausing and staying still on the trapeze platform. When we do, we have the chance to climb down, become more grounded and choose new ways of thinking. We can choose curiosity: “what could be motivating them? What thoughts and beliefs are shaping their actions?” And compassion: “how are they feeling in their context? What pain are they enduring? How can I help ease their pain?” And move to self-reflection: “if I’m bothered, what aspect is making me upset? Why are their actions pushing on a nerve? What stories do I hold that this challenges? Are they current or out-dated? What am I holding onto that defines my sense of self? Will their actions take away from that identity? What new versions of myself am I exploring and can I learn from? And finally, to contribution: Considering what I’ve learned, how can I contribute to greater well-being, safety and connection?”

These questions that use external situations to explore our inner landscape is our process of letting come. We stop long enough to allow the opening of our mind, our heart and our will to be transformed by the moment and our interaction with others. This transformation gives us the ultimate sense of agency as we use our relationships and current context to fuel our growth and development. And our children benefit exponentially. They have a model of courage and resilience. They see that challenging times and people posing challenges can result in rapid growth, adaptation, and ability to not only meet the times but innovate and create new solutions to grow ourselves and the communities we are a part of. 

What if your immediate family and/or intimate relationships became a hub for growth, well-being and meaning-making that positively affected the lives of all who came in contact? Viral change-making might be the way we meet our current times but it will require going within first. Learning is love in action. I cannot imagine a greater gift to our loved ones than this. These are my sacred intentions for 2022.

I wish for you your own ability to pause long enough to consider what gifts you can give your family and community by putting love into action through your open mind, heart and will. “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has,” by Margaret Mead can be our beacon leading the way.

Happy New Year!

With Love,

Jennifer Miller

P.S. We will be celebrating ten years of Confident Parents, Confident Kids in 2022. I can hardly believe it! We have some BIG surprises in store! So read on and please share and contribute! 

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