Recently I heard the news of someone adopting a newborn baby.
As someone who has spent most of her adult life working with children, especially those who have been abandoned, abused, or have homes where they don’t feel valued and loved, I was grateful for their courage and compassion in embarking on this journey. Despite not knowing this couple well, there was something I wanted to share with them.
While doing that, I realized how that actually applies to every new parent anywhere in the world.
I am grateful because the single, most influential and important thing we can do for a child is to provide a warm, loving, and secure home. By home, I don’t mean bricks and mortar—I mean the people. People who love and accept that child unconditionally and radiate that feeling.
This can be more healing than any therapy, support, or intervention we could ever offer. A child needs someone with the courage and compassion to take on that challenge and be committed to this journey together. The courage to open your heart to this small being, who now has the power to crack your heart wide open.
To love a child unconditionally is courageous, as it means accepting and loving them no matter what and not being attached to who you want them to be, but seeing them for who they are and allowing them to grow.
The courage to face the idea of letting them go and letting them take risks, the courage to fall head over heels in love with their compassion, to be with the tears and the hurts, the anger and frustration, the compassion to see the world through their eyes and help them negotiate it and learn how to be themselves in this big, strange world. The compassion to treat yourself kindly when it all feels too hard, or you get it wrong so that they, in turn, learn to have this same compassion and courage themselves.
No training, no books, and no advice can ever prepare us for this journey. All we can do is open our hearts and minds to the wonderful being this child is. To be open to letting them tell us what they need and how they can be patented best. Willing to walk through those days that are hard as hell and nights that are never-ending and be committed to getting through it together.
I was asked recently what one bit of advice I wish I had been given as a new mum. I think that one bit of advice would be the one phrase that helped me immensely, “This too shall pass.”
It reminded me when things felt good to soak them up because they would not last forever, to take that moment to shower or pee or just breath—because that would pass soon. When the nights were so so long and the days just all blurred together in naps, feeds, crying, and feeling not enough—that this too would pass.
All I needed to do was get through this moment, one at a time, because it all passes eventually. Enjoy it when I could forgive myself and when I couldn’t to keep breathing to make it to another moment and day. Nothing lasts forever.
Sometimes it feels like it will—or we hold onto the hope that it will. But nothing does. Sometimes we need some help, and that’s okay too. When we ask for and accept help, we model for our child that this is okay. When we cry and break, we model how to survive that. When we take each moment, one at a time, we model that to our child. These are the building blocks they will use throughout their lives. These building blocks, held up by our love and warmth, are the foundation they will use to grow for the rest of their life.
So when we open our hearts to a child and welcome them into our world by being courageous enough to step into theirs, we do something of immense value, not only for that child but for all the others who come after it. It is a service for the future of our planet.
We lay the foundations for a heart to be safe enough, to be open enough to accept love and kindness for themselves and everyone who they will walk into later.
Parenting might be one of the hardest and most important journeys you will ever take. Children are literally our future. We need a generation of children with the compassion and courage to change this world, to face head-on the challenges we face.
How we parent shapes the adult that child will become and, by default, the world of our future. But doing this is hard; it requires that we face our own demons and challenges so we can parent our own child or another’s child who’s in our care. It is exhausting and often feels thankless.
It is a long game, where we may not benefit at all from the choices we make, but have to trust that our children’s children will. Future generations will benefit from the love and hard work we put in now.
However you come to take that journey, you are worthy of respect and gratitude for the love and courage you bring to it.