Striving for Extraordinary Sucks!
I was raised by wolves. That’s part of the title of my first book, Field Guide to Plugged-In Parenting...even if you were raised by wolves. My parents weren’t bad people, they were really cool, but they were terrible caretakers. The only time I got a passing glance was when I did something extraordinary, like reading from an encyclopedia when I was 4 for a group of my mother’s friends. When I performed like a tiny blonde seal, they would tell me how special I was and then leave me with other people to go out and live their extraordinary lives.
Parenting is a job, and my parents outsourced it; my childhood was the equivalent of a call center in Bangladesh. I was surrounded by people who were supposedly the experts in charge of my needs, but we couldn’t understand each other very well. These minders were, mostly, well meaning, but they did not parent me--because they weren’t my parents. So, I would wait for my people to return from whatever adventure they were having, bullfights in Spain (yes, my dad trained to be a matador) or driving race cars in Europe, to come home and be with me. When they did, my little brain would push me to be extraordinary enough, so that they would stay for a while.
I'm still trying to be extraordinary. Waiting for a parent figure (publisher, website designer, or even my clients) to tell me how wonderful I am and how much I have helped them, so that I can feel like I matter. In the past, I have put all of this approval hustling before my own parenting, effectively repeating the neglect cycle. I was there physically for my kids, but mentally I was checked out, on the hunt for more people to assure me I was extraordinary. Kids won’t do that for you. All they will do is love you back and show you a different, simpler way to be content, if you take the time to be in their world with them.
I still feel that pull, that longing, to make a difference so I can get my hit of “special” dopamine, but I’m getting better at stopping to parent when the moment arises. I stop a meeting to take a call from my daughters, to make sure they’re okay. I put aside the email or blog post when my college girl wants to watch a show or to help her edit a paper, because my children matter more. I will put in the time and effort now, so that I have a true connection when I’m older. When the world slows down for me, and I don’t have any more clients or readers, I want to have established a deep and abiding connection with the humans I raised, as well as the human I married.
I saw my mom suffer when she was aged, because she was lonely. I did what she needed, but we didn’t have a “hanging out” relationship--because she didn’t put in the time when it really mattered. I want to be a better parent than what was patterned for me. I want to put in the ordinary time that really matters and put aside the need to be extraordinary for other people. Because that push to be extraordinary sucks time, energy and joy. I don’t want to live a life that sucks. I want a life filled with ordinary moments that make my heart smile. If I put in the ordinary time with people I love, will my life be more extraordinary as a result? I don’t know. Let’s try it together and see!
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