What makes for an expert parent?

I’m really excited about this Tuesday Tune In, friends. It’s about parents taking a page from sailors in order to figure out what makes for an expert parent. It was inspired by something a yoga instructor said in class this week. (Ok. It was Chase Connolly from my favorite studio.) I’ve been thinking about it ever since. And you will be, too.

He said, “Joy is technical.”

I said, “Huh?” (from my downdog.)

He gave the example of a sailor being caught in a storm. If the sailor is new and unskilled, then a storm could be a terrifying and traumatizing experience. However, if the sailor is an expert and has years of experience, then getting stuck in a storm might be exhilarating and maybe even a joyful challenge.

It made me think of parenting. I wondered: What makes for an expert parent? Is it the technique we gain from experience or is it something else?

Expert sailors (and parents) have learned their technique:

  • which bucket (bottle)to use
  • how to hold the wheel (baby) in the correct position
  • where the lifejackets (pacifiers) are hidden
  • when to fiddle with the rudder (humidifer)
  • how to tie a knot (cloth diaper)

But more than that, expert sailors (and parents) are defined by their EMOTIONAL technique. It’s not just about finding solutions, rather it’s about finding a state of mind. The expert does not get crazed by the storm.

Deep in a moment of crisis she knows to say to herself- I will get through this and it will be ok. Partly this comes from experience. She has learned that the storm will blow over and peace will follow.

But partly it is the work of cultivating a deep sense of confidence. It takes some effort to truly believe that everything will be ok. That is the work of the expert parent.

In moments of storm the expert parent says: “I am taking care of this baby and I love this baby. My baby might be frightened but I am not because know I will figure it out. If she cries, it’s ok.”

Why is this so important? Because our baby needs us to believe it too.

 

So parents, here are some strategies for weathering the storm with grace:

  1. Take a breath. Maybe two.
  2. You may need to walk away for a minute knowing that it is for the best in the long run.
  3. You may need to tune in to what YOU need at that moment in order to know what your baby needs. maybe it’s a walk outside. Maybe it’s a song.
  4. Ask for help when you need it.
  5. Know that the storm will pass.

It is not necessarily working to overcome the storm rather to accept it. It is part of sailing. It’s part of parenting. We can’t always make it go away. We do our best to help and we have the confidence that eventually it will pass. The sun will peek out from the clouds and there will be a sunset and a glass of wine waiting.

These are my strategies but I want to hear yours. Let’s brainSTORM on this. Please share below in the comments.

Now let’s look at it from another perspective – the passenger’s.  As a passenger on the expert sailor’s boat we might feel frightened, but our fear would be contained by our skipper. We would have confidence that it would all be okay. On the novice sailor’s boat, it would be quite a shocking experience to be watching them frantically trying to troubleshoot – raising the sail, bringing down the sail, fiddling with the rudder, throwing things off the boat, etc.

Our babies need us to convey confidence that the storm will pass.

They register our trials and errors and our distress. Although they might feel scared, panicked, or confused, they trust us and need us to contain their anxiety.

So back to joy and technique – We may never fully feel that we have accrued enough technique to parent expertly. But we can work to cultivate confidence that the storm will pass. And that will open us up to experiencing all the joys that come with it.

 

How do you weather the storms? COMMENT below and let me know. Do you take a breath or two? Do you take a break yourself or turn to music?

Know a novice sailor or an expert one? Share this Tuesday Tune-In. We’re all making our way across this ocean together. Forward this email to all the sailors (parents) out there!

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2 thoughts on “What makes for an expert parent?”

  1. I love this, Vered.

    As a sailer myself, and a daughter and grand daughter of female sailors this makes sooo much sense to me. My mother actually CHOSE to go out on her Hobie Cat right before the storms because it was always “the best wind”. She loved that. It terrified me. As I got older and got better at sailing myself, she “showed me the ropes” and I learned to love it too. To be honest, I’m still scared in moments on the boat with her, but knowing that my mom is there is what makes me much less scared. It’s a good kind of scared. An Eleanor Roosevelt, “do one thing that scares you” kind of scared.

    When I used to teach sailing to kids I found that I developed an extremely calm, “Sailing instructor voice”. I used lots of encouragement in my words, my face, and even when they came crashing into my boat with theirs I never yelled. As a mama, I find it much harder to find that voice and stick with it, but this image will help me for sure.

    My two take aways:
    1. just being “there” can take away some of the child’s feat
    2. use the sailing instructor voice… calm, encouraging, even when it’s hard to keep it there…

    Love to you.

    P.S. I made a felt board set-up with the parts of your good morning song that I use weekly at a storytime in Fort Greene. I share about you and your wisdom there as well. 🙂

    1. Hi Anna,
      What a lovely response. I so appreciate your take aways as a true sailor, and I can totally imagine the sailing instructor voice 🙂 Thank you for adding those t the list.
      And wow! I’ve always wanted to make a felt board of a song of mine! Can you take a video of what you do and how it works? Thank you for sharing my song with families. and lots of love to you too.

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