“Firm belief in the reliability, truth, or ability of someone or something.” (Oxford English Dictionary)
The T-word is often used when it comes to parenting: articles, blog posts and op-eds extol the prominence of trust—what none of them tell us is how difficult it can sometimes be.
There is plenty of advice about how we should do this parenting business (not the least of which is ‘trust your instincts’)—all it does is make me question my every decision, especially when I read contradicting edicts on “how to.”
If you are anything like me, you are second guessing yourself all the time. Am I doing it right? Should I have let him have 5 more minutes on the iPad instead of insisting he sticks to the time limit (one we had agreed on)? Will he be able to get milk from the shop all on his own at age seven or will he get run over, or drop the money or pick the wrong kind of milk, or…? If he comes last at the chess tournament, how will he handle the disappointment? How will I handle his disappointment?
And which kind of trust are we talking about anyway?
Trusting ourselves—that we can do it: feed them, take care of them, teach them, understand them when they have no words (as babies or teens), give them what they need?
Trusting our children—that they can do it, too: climb that tree on their own, cross the road without getting hit by a car, deal with their disappointments and build friendships?
Trusting others—teachers, coaches, doctors, bus drivers, friends and their parents, strangers on the street?
I have found that ultimately, trust is a decision; of allowing them to climb that tree, to cross that road, to go to that party, to study Philosophy instead of Engineering, and believing that they will be fine. That they are strong enough, sensible enough and can deal with the situation. That if they can’t, they’ll come to us for help, because they know we’ll not scorn or laugh at them, but will help them with whatever they need help with. This trust is by no means blind, mind you: we are aware of each other’s limitations. Tree-climbing, road-crossing and party-going happen when both parties agree that we are ready. And we take (calculated) risks: if I tell littleD he’ll be fine putting his head under the water, he believes (in) me and tries, even though he is really scared; and if bigD says that he can go out to get the milk, and he’ll be really sensible, I let him go, even though he has never gone anywhere without being supervised before. (I might be chewing my lip bloody while he is out, but I make sure he doesn’t see that. And when he comes back, milk in hand, glowing with pride, I am just as happy and proud as he is.)
Their trust in me is probably one of my most powerful parenting tools. So is my trust in them.
It is precious.
“I know you will come back, mummy” says littleD before turning in at bedtime. I did say I would come back later to check on him, and he trusts that I will. And I do indeed come back when I say so. Even when I know he has already fallen asleep. Every. Single. Time.
This post is part of our A-Z of Parenting series where we take a look at the whole alphabet of things that can go right – or wrong – with parenting. A new letter is added every couple of days. Check out what’s happened so far here.
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