Parenthood: The Ultimate Common Ground
I recently traveled with my two small children across the country on my own. It was the first time I was “outnumbered” for this kind of adventure and length of time. Leading up to it, the internet did its eerie thing of suggesting articles that played right to my fears. Would my children and I be the bane of some folks’ existence during the flights? Is it really possible for a four-year-old to wear a mask all day?
Often in my role as a therapist supporting young people and their families, I push back on our cultural pressures to present perfectly as a parent and the idea that our children are in fact inside our control. Our lived experiences offer reminders that our children, whether 2 or 20 years old, are most certainly their own people and not inside our power. Even the possessive pronouns “our” and “my” kids capture the disconnect as we consider that our own parents in fact actually did not own us. Not at all. These reframes offer some powerful perspectives on parenting.
As we made our way through the various legs of our flights, I was astounded by my encounters with other people along the way. Never had I experienced the sacred understanding and common ground of being a parent as I did in these airports and planes. For example, boarding six flights in all, someone graciously and quickly offered to roll my stroller to the gate as I carried things and ushered children. Heck, most of the time folks carried my bags as well. In my overheated exhaustion while trying to be polite, many people simply looked at me and said some version of, “We’re all parents, you’re doing great, don’t worry.” One man shared a Spiderman video with my child that most likely saved the day.
There were smaller moments too, like with a couple who were visiting their grandchild playing with my children on a blanket in the bustling airport. In the chaos of a flight unloading and everyone headed to the restroom, a woman walked up and said, “I have three little boys so can I help you?” Yes, no further explanation needed. At the end of one flight, both kids were sleeping. How does one carry luggage and two sleeping children off a plane? Someone else carries one, and someone else the bags. To become a parent is a rite of passage and I was definitely in the group, despite being alone in the practical sense.
The world today seems more overwhelming for many of us as we navigate life since COVID. As I’ve worked in wilderness therapy for over a decade, I’m aware it always has been a cruel world. Or can be. I know this as a human. Yet, my experience when the rubber hits the road is that there is still a common ground at which we all can meet. One where there it’s impossible to be perfect. Or, perhaps, that’s not even the point. Nevertheless, there is still compassion in the world, and this not-so-secret society among parents of nurturing and community for each other is a thriving force. Thank goodness.