Every now and then go away,
Have a little relaxation,
For when you come back to your work
Your judgment will be surer;
Since to remain constantly at work
Will cause you to lose power of judgment.
Go some distance away
Because the work appears smaller
And more of it
Can be taken in at a glance,
And a lack of harmony
Is more readily seen.
Leonardo Da Vinci
“Heather is five-years-old and I’ve never left her. Not a night away. Not a babysitter.” Betsey said as though it were a badge of honor.
The joy we experience as new parents bonds us to our children. We want to be close. To provide food and protection, we must be nearby. Babies and young children require holding and hugging to feel loved. To meet these childhood needs, parents have two basic tasks. We have to invest time with our children, and we have to be able to see each child’s point of view.
From the moment of conception, parents balance personal needs and desires with the needs of their unborn child. We eat right. We avoid unhealthy substances. We try to think pleasant thoughts. We listen to whale songs. We get extra sleep. We buy hundreds of dollars of baby supplies.
Caring for a newborn and ourselves takes 110% of our time. A newborn depends totally on his or her mother and father. The mother depends on the father for strength and encouragement. These new relationships consume us, as well they should.
Parenting is an intense and satisfying activity with a “gotchya”.
The gotchya? Parents are to produce an independent adult from a helpless seven-pound being. We have to go from caring for an infant who needs us 24 hours a day, to being the parent of adult who doesn’t need us at all.
Parents tell us they want their adult children to possess these qualities:
Happiness, confidence, independence, responsibility, respectfulness, a loving and giving nature, excitement about life, self-motivation, life-long-learning, financial security, empathy, compassion, integrity, and be a world-citizen.
These attributes are the long-term goals we have for our children, and not surprisingly, for ourselves.
Our children can achieve these attributes, if we consider two questions:
- What do our children need and how can we meet their needs?
- Are we focused more on our children’s behavior than their needs?
Focusing on our children’s needs to help achieve our long-term goals means that we have to relinquish control of the process. We have to focus on needs instead of behavior. Because in the end, the process of child rearing is not about what we want. It’s about what our children need to become fully functioning adults.
Betsy’s comment about never spending a night away from her daughter made me wonder whose needs were being served, mother’s or daughter’s. It is important to know that “every now and then” we need to step away from our work to get a perspective and to see if all is in proportion. As a friend of mine says, “Take a reality check.”
Let’s take Da Vinci’s advice to “have a little relaxation” and make the time to step back from our work with our children. It should help us get a view of the big picture, and “enhance our power of judgment” to see what our children need in their journey to adulthood.
Parenting is one of the few activities where success can measured by to the degree to which we have rendered ourselves obsolete.
And while our grown children may no longer “need” us, the phone calls that say how grateful they are to be so prepared for adulthood are definitely welcome.
So well said!
Another brilliant essay. . .but there have been so many, and I read them every one, always coming away with a new thought. One of my favorites was about two years back on leadership. Soon I’ll retire and have more time to respond, but for now, much gratitude.
Thank you for your many years of work with children. I appreciate you!