Parenting Out on the Big Ocean

Better bring your sunscreen

Several years ago, I told a friend who was about to have his first baby that parenting is “like being out on the big ocean in a small sailboat.”

“What do you mean?” he asked.

“I used to think parenting would be more like artistic creation,” I explained, “where you have the chance to shape something based mainly on your own vision and skills. But it isn’t like that at all. It’s more like a continual effort to stay afloat and keep moving forward–sometimes by repeatedly changing directions.”

He laughed. “So you’re saying you’re not in control?” he asked.

“Only partly,” I replied. “You have some tools you can use to steer and to try to stay on top of things. But you have to recognize that you’re mostly at the mercy of the waves and the winds and the currents.

“If you take what the ocean gives you, and you adapt to it all as best you can–and you just keep on steering and sailing, tacking and jibing, rolling and running–that’s really your best chance to make it through. 

“On the other hand, if you try to fight the forces of nature, you’re basically sunk–because sails and rudders and even whole boats are no match for the big ocean. What you have as a parent are tools for harnessing what mother nature gives you, not taking something from her–much less imposing your own puny vision where she has other ideas.”

My friend laughed again. “That’s deep,” he said. 

He was being a little salty at the time. But just last week, he told me I was right.

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