How to Let Go of Parenting as a Verb and Just BE a Parent

Parenting these days is such a big deal.

It feels like it has become the topic of so much content, my own included. And sometimes it seems ridiculous and unnecessary. After all, isn’t parenting something we should just know how to do? Why do we have to talk about it all the time and get advice from strangers on the internet?

I have an interesting vantage point, as I’m sure many other educators do. We are often parents ourselves, and we simultaneously get to see the effects of other parents’ behavior from the outside. At the same time that we’re relating to their freak-outs and the need to save their kids from all that is bad in the world, we’re rolling our eyes.

I know what it feels like to worry about my own children, but I would say I can’t relate at all to the way the parent panic shows up in some cases. Calling teachers about a grade, being angry at coaches for benching, intervening in your child’s social life…can’t say I’ve ever done those things or wanted to do them. In fact, I fundamentally disagree with the overparenting culture our world is perpetuating.

Parenting has become a thing we do, an identity we carry. And our kids are learning more from that than from our self-sacrificing intentions.

I recently went to a party where we all had to participate in an icebreaker: we got slips of paper with random fun facts about one attendee and had to mingle and ask enough questions to figure out who the facts were about. (There were prizes that included massages and Starbucks…the only incentive to fight my introverted ways.) But what we all realized after talking to most of the people in attendance? At least 75% of the facts people shared were about being a parent. By contrast, I didn’t talk about my kids with any of these people and amazingly, I didn’t go up in flames from the intense shame of being someone other than a mom.

There’s freedom in being a parent, but not playing the parenting game in every moment of your life. Remembering who you were before you became a human doing, rather than a human being.

Throughout the years, I’ve had a lot of interactions with all kinds of parents. Some hands-off, some very hands-on. And there’s ultimately no correct way of doing this most important of jobs. However, I believe we are disappearing as our own unique people and our kids are following suit.

The things we do to save our kids from consequences, to avoid having to see them for whomever they truly are, and to create a hypothetical future for them are all symptoms of one major theme: FEAR.

As parents, we’re afraid of things real and imagined. From the moment we put our first tiny baby down to sleep, we have a list of worries that everyone around us has validated. But year after year, by letting our imaginations run wild and acting out of fear, we show our kids the opposite of what I think we all really want.

They get the message that you are what you DO, not who you ARE.

Why do so many of our teens find it so hard to just relax?

Why do they feel it isn’t enough to just put the phone down, and interact with people?

Why do they panic about tests and homework and college applications, no matter what we say?

Because we’re showing them that it’s the doing, the verbs of our lives, that matter.

How to Just BE With Your Teen

Instead, if we valued being, we would value any test score they receive as a representation of them just trying to BE in this world. We would value any college they want to go to, or their desire to not attend at all. We would stop thinking about their future career choices and salary potential, and instead just know that this human we’ve had the pleasure of raising is going to know exactly how they need to contribute to the world. And we would let them get to that space of inner peace and confidence without judgment, without throwing in our opinions along the way.

I challenge you to think of who you are today, and forget about what you or your child needs to get done.

Just be with them. That’s all they need.

When’s the last time you had a conversation with your child about something other than what they need to do, or how to do something better? It can be hard to know where to begin. I’m here to help guide those conversations.

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ParentingChelsea Torres