Since my video content for my blog is non-existent for the next week (My 3-year old Sam is staying with three of his four siblings at my parents’ in Ohio until I got here to join them on July 3rd!), I find myself with more time, peace and quiet than usual in order to think about and put my philosophy about parenting into words. On the ride back to DC after dropping the children in Ohio, I wound around the Catoctin and South Mountains with the Supermoon above me and my 14-year old daughter, Eva, next to me, I was inspired to think about the way I have chosen to parent.
With the moon, stars and Eva shining so brightly around me, I realized how I tend to parent by keeping my eye on the stars, so to speak, versus keeping my “eye on the ball,” as the common expression goes. Keeping my eye on the ball, literally, has never come easily to me. Although I played sports in high school (I was MVP my senior year for volleyball!) and continue to have fun being “sporty” (e.g., playing soccer with my clients as a reward for hard work during speech therapy, watching my daughters play sports, etc.), I don’t have very good eye-hand coordination or the type of attentional capacity that allows me to focus on an object coming towards me that I must return in kind or place into a goal or basket. I think this carries over into the way I think, in general as well as how I parent, as I tend not to get hung up on details, but, instead focus on the whole picture.
Keeping my eye on the stars while parenting has allowed me to look at each of my children with an openness to possibility that is as vast as the night sky. It allows me to see the whole picture of each child when deciding how to parent. This means that I think about his or her learning style, personality, temperament, likes/dislikes, social-emotional maturity, sensory processing preferences, communication skills, strengths/weaknesses, and much more before I discipline or teach him or her. It allows me to work towards “connecting the dots” in terms of whom they are currently and whom they might be becoming, just as I try to discover constellations in the sky by connecting the stars. By “keeping my eye on the stars” while I parent, I am able to keep the long-range of time in view, knowing that each of them will change as they grow and that a phase in development is only ever that: a phase that will pass. I consider the brightness of certain stars, the brightness that shines differently in each of my children, the possibility of stars that have yet to be discovered and the possibilities in my children.
Viewing the starry sky during the drive home made me feel so very far away from the stars, and this was a reminder to me that using a telescope can heighten the experience of viewing stars and everything else that is in the sky. This then reminded me that taking a whole picture approach to parenting is not useful all the time, which is why I pull out my parenting “telescope” and look more carefully at my children when necessary. At times, I look at them telescopically in order to find out about their feelings, their thoughts and ideas, and their opinions. I listen and look carefully for signs that development is going well or not well. I study each of them to know whether it is time to take a more active role in their development versus letting their development unfold as it will. As I move my parenting telescope around to get the perfect view and focus the lens, so that each child’s needs, wants, hopes, dreams and desires become that much clearer to me so that I can parent him or her better.
With a “keep your eye on the stars” parenting style, I can compare my children to each other and to other children I know or read about, just as I can compare the stars to other celestial bodies in the night sky (e.g., the moon, planets, sun, meteors, etc.). I can look for strengths and weaknesses. I can build self-esteem by celebrating likenesses and differences to others. Comparing and contrasting as a parent is safe for me to do within reason, but I avoid having the same expectations of my child who is energetic but not goal-oriented (e.g., not motivated by getting a good grade or scoring a point on the playing field) that I would have of my other child who is energetic and goal-oriented, and therefore an athlete and high-performing student. To me, this would feel as futile as expecting the moon to move like a shooting star or to glow as intensely as Venus or Mars.
Since keeping my eye on the ball feels too restrictive and unnatural to me, I choose to parent by keeping my eye on the stars. I relish in the possibilities in my children. I keep an expansive view of them. I look for brightnesses that I can highlight and that I can encourage them to use to their advantage. I compare them to other children within reason and only if I think it will inspire them or help them see and appreciate differences in themselves and others for the greatest and highest good of all. I don’t hover, but instead give them the space they need to sense their own possibility, to learn and to discover, all the while using my telescope to guide them or “lending” it out to them when necessary.
Parenting this way is not for everyone. Parenting style must feel like a shoe that fits perfectly. If the shoe doesn’t fit, it will be lead to stumbling and feeling imbalanced. Try the “keep your eye on the stars” parenting style if you think it may fit for you. If it doesn’t, discard it and move on to find something that does or to create your own.