We brought in the new year with friends and karaoke. I wanted to decide right then and there it would be “a good year,” but the last few years have taught me not to get ahead of myself. I declared my word of 2023 to be “freedom” after singing Rocketman with Sandy, and I felt so sweetly happy that I almost forgot for a second to wait for the other shoe to drop.
On the sixth day of 2023, my father was hospitalized for a week and everything shifted. The way we think about time is relative: it’s easy on New Year’s Eve to make plans and set goals, but in the hospital, every moment, and every drop of blood is important in its own right. On Friday the 13th my dad was released from the hospital with a good sense of humor about bad luck.
Originally, I had wanted to write this column about the parenting trends I have started to gravitate towards, things like gentle parenting, and softness as a way of life. Now I feel I must write about this year as if it is precious in a way I didn’t realize 2023 would be right away.
These are my five parenting trends for this year inspired by my father.
- Interviewing the people who raised you:
While my father was in the hospital, I asked him a little over 100 questions and recorded his responses. A few times during the interview, nurses/hospital staff stopped what they were doing to listen to what he was saying about his life, and it meant everything to me to know for even a second that they could see him as more than sick.
One of my dearest friends used to say “my children will say their mother wasn’t perfect but she went to therapy, and did her best.” Give your kids the gift of parents who deal with their mental health proactively and intentionally.
You cannot be free without an education. Freedom is not attainable without the ability to think for yourself. This year our freedom requires reflection and that we engage with an interrogation of the way we think. We must embrace one another’s right to evolve this year, our right to change, learn and grow with humility.
Looking at my one-year-old everything is freedom, every word, every point of her finger, every rest of her head on my shoulder, she sleeps when she’s tired, demands food when she’s hungry, and everything else is play.
Our parents are people. Our children are people. We are people. Most of the time we’re doing the best we can, and it’s OK to strive to be better… but it’s also OK to love people for who they are. We get to be the generation that loves ourselves enough to be ourselves. Our children don’t have to hide who they are or pretend to be the versions of themselves they think we would approve of. Young people don’t have to be afraid of their families. Our babies get to explore all the possibilities expansively and we get to give them our blessing.
This year, we are letting go of how things should be, and finding beauty in the way that life is.
We are replacing passive-aggressive digs with words of encouragement. We are team realistic expectations and letting go of perfectionism. We are giving everybody grace, ourselves included.
Pretty early on this year, I started really considering what it means to run out of time with people.
I imagine we’re never really prepared to lose the people we love, nor are we prepared to watch them suffer. This year, I want to be grateful for my family, for my parents, and my children, and my siblings and my cousins, my nieces and nephews and Niblings, I want to celebrate and appreciate the people I love, my chosen family, my extended family, and my work family.
I want to honor my relationships while I make space to do what works for me and what’s right for me. I want to savor the good and roll with the punches.
I want to remember that two days after getting out of the hospital, I came over to my dad’s house to visit him, and there he was in his workout room, gloves on, punching the bag. And all I could think was: Thank God.
Parenting question January 2023:
- How do you talk to your kids about the highs and lows of life? How do you normalize stress in your family?
Play question January 2023:
- Now is the time to find a new game, a new family show, a new hobby: how are you using the new year to do things a little differently with your family or try something new together?
Politics question January 2023:
- Where is there space in your family to disagree, to think differently, and be respected?
Please feel free to email me at [email protected].
Until February/Black History Month, my beloved readers, I leave you with this:
“One thing I had learned from watching chimpanzees with their infants is that having a child should be fun.”