Is it possible to find peace as a parent?
I had the opportunity to spend a beautiful spring day at the Tucson Peace Fair. Afterwards I also spent some time thinking about what peace means to me.
Throughout the course of my life, my definition of peace has changed.
I used to think peace was the absence of anger and conflict. If I had grown up in a peaceful home, for example, my parents wouldn’t have yelled or I wouldn’t have gotten spanked.
Then I grew into my 20s and 30s and I would have defined peace as the absence of stress and frustration.
Then I became a parent at 36.
For a while I thought peace might mean being able to go to the bathroom by myself.
But more seriously, as I began to unravel the knots of my past, as I came to understand the impact of my childhood and the ways I was taught to behave as a parent, I came to a very different understanding of peace.
Peace isn’t the absence of frustration or anger. It isn’t the absence of conflict.
Peace is holding the many conflicting ways we feel as human beings about ourselves, our relationships with each other, and the world around us all together in one space.
Peace doesn’t mean we always agree or that we have to believe the same things. Peace doesn’t mean we don’t get mad at each other or that our feelings don’t get hurt.
Peace doesn’t mean that I’m not triggered as a parent. I don’t think I could be human and find peace, if this were a requirement.
Especially as parents, we may find ourselves always trying to balance a multitude of challenges, struggles, and joys in our relationships with the children in our lives. And we might think there is a kind of peace that eludes us, that we will never be able to achieve.
And that might make us feel even more frustrated. If we believe peace can only be achieved through perfection, we set ourselves up.
The reality is that as human beings there will be times when our needs feel as though they are in conflict.
We will feel frustration at the way things just played out in a conversation.
We will want a different reality than the one we have in front of us.
We can create peace amidst all of this if we allow ourselves to see the beauty in the messy process of life, in the back and forth process of learning, and in the sometimes painful process of growing.
I don’t have to be a perfect parent.
I DO have to be willing to engage my imperfections.
I have to continue to unravel the knots of my past that get in the way of being present with the children in my life. I have to be willing to understand the ways I need to let go of expectations about how they should be, and be willing to be in the messiness of how they are right now.
Maybe even more importantly, engaging my imperfections means that I am willing to see myself as imperfect, understand that my imperfections are a part of who I am, and still love myself.
It means that I can let go of expectations about how I should be, and be willing to be in the messiness of who I am right now.
I have to be willing to love myself enough to not excuse myself for my behavior when it hurts someone else. And, I have to love myself enough to forgive myself for my imperfections so that I have room to grow and expand as a parent, and a human being.