Someone told me recently that, as a parent, we do the best that we can.
"Did you do your best?" They asked.
"Yes, of course I have done and still do my best," I replied. "But . . . what if that best isn't good enough?"
What if what was good enough before isn't good enough now? Am I ever resolved from having to figure out this parenting thing? Do I ever get to stop trying? Are there even any sure answers to be found?
It seems everyone I meet is an expert with an opinion. It doesn't matter if it's a mother of one two-year-old or a father of six for the last 15 years -- each one has heavy emotional issues about parenting that weary me to no end. What to feed baby first? When to wean? When to potty-train? Thumb-sucking vs. pacifier? Preschool, private school, public school or homeschool? How can people be so vain as to think that they have all the answers for not only their children but for everyone else's children as well?
The only parenting issue I've ever been sure of is that I never wanted to hit my children. From the moment my firstborn was placed in my arms, I knew I'd have to find a way to teach and train this individual without the use of violence. However, this parenting issue is no more than what it looks like -- a decision for me and my children. Not an expert opinion for everyone else to follow. All anyone can do is what is best for their children and what they determine is their best parenting effort. But are our best efforts enough? Just because a parent makes confident choices doesn't mean that they're the right choices.
Perhaps raising children is like a comprehensive math test. There is so much to study, so many possible permutations and ways of coming to an answer, there is no possible way to study with any certainty of success. If I studied parenting books, interviewed parenting experts and prayed nonstop for ten years, I could still never possibly figure out what combination of right and wrong, love and discipline, or molding and freedom would produce the best results for this particular child.
And so, what is the real test then? Every time a person becomes a parent they are putting themselves to the test. Their ability to produce, in 18 short years, an adult of high morals and outstanding character is percariously balanced on how well they can guess what to study. Therefore, parents are putting their entire lives on the line, their identities, their self-confidence. All of this to be determined someday in the distance when the test results are read by all --- pass or fail?
We do what we know. We do the best that we know. But that doesn't change the fact that children only grow up once.