If you’re reading this, you’re probably already a parent, or about to be one, or know someone who is. Congratulations. Parenthood is the hardest job of all because the responsibilities keep changing without letting you know.
So there really isn’t one specific year that will test you the most because just when you think you’ve figured out how you want to manage your responsibilities, the kid you’re planning for changes again.
Yes, seriously, but you’re lucky because there will be no shortage of advice to help you. And, because so many other people are also parents, lots of the parenthood advice will make sense and even work which is awesome. It’s easy to pick one set of strategies and just go with it — use that one book or website as your Bible (so to speak) and refer to it often.
Just like your first bicycle, it’s thrilling to finally have something that takes you where you want to go faster than you could before.
There’s a bit of a catch here though.
The difference with parenting over any other position with roles and responsibilities is that much of the work you’re expected to do is done in isolation and by the seat of your pants.
Much of the advice you’ll get will begin with “If your child does this, you should….” Great, but when your child doesn’t do “this,” you don’t have the playbook.
It’s frustrating for sure, but you can be very successful if you learn how to ride a unicycle.
Riding a Unicycle
There is a natural progression that happens in the cycling world. First, there is a tricycle which is a cycle with three wheels.
The tricycle balances well, thank you two rear wheels. The tricycle has pedals to help it go faster which is fun, but your feet can always rest on the ground to make it stop which is nice when you need to feel in control.
Next, a person generally moves into a bicycle. This two wheeled cycle requires balance and some instructions, but is pretty easily mastered by anyone with decent gross motor skills.
And that, is where most people stop, but not the unicyclist. The unicyclist is a person with a drive to master complex skills independently.
Unicycles started as a circus act, but quickly gained the attention of ordinary people who wanted to feel the thrill of independently balancing on one wheel to accomplish what needs to be done.
It is this feeling of capability that you need to find as a parent so that you can pass it on to your child. It is impossible to teach someone how to ride a unicycle by explaining it or sharing written instructions. A person must experience unicycling alone which makes its mastery a confidence builder.
Riding a unicycle will require trust, patience, and support. You must be willing to develop these three characteristics. If you learn more than this along the way, you can only get better at parenting. It is in modeling how to ride a unicycle yourself that will show your child how to ride his own unicycle.
But beware, riding a unicycle will not seem normal to many other people.
They will tell you it isn’t necessary and, of course, they are right. Bicycles are everywhere and are much easier to ride, but you want to make the most of this one crazy ride don’t you?
Look out for Potholes
For a bicyclist, bumps and potholes are troublesome, but not disastrous. For a unicyclist, bumps and potholes can feel like the end of the trip. There will be lots of people out there who are bumps and potholes, including your own children and especially your own parents.
These will be the same people who don’t understand why you’d bother to take on the complex difficult job of learning to unicycle when your perfectly nice bicycle is sitting right in the garage.
You must learn how to be like the spokes of a wheel when these bumps and potholes are in sight. Let the comments flow through the spokes and out the other side as you keep on pedaling your unicycle.
You know it’s going to be tough, you didn’t take it on because it seemed easy, but it still might be hard.
There will be many times you will want to put your unicycle in the basement and let it gather dust. Don’t.
I promise you that the complex path yields results that bring lasting joy and confidence in who you are as a parent and how your children turn out.
Here are some common bumps and potholes that you will encounter. Try to recognize them for what they are and use your body to lean away from them.
Navigate these Unicycle Potholes
Your Own Parents. Your parents are potholes because you love them no matter how poor their judgement may have been when you were growing up. Their way is so familiar that it may seem comfortable to do what was done with you. In fact, their parenting might have been perfect for you and that’s why they can be the pothole that stops you from doing what’s right for your child. Parenthood can be tricky this way.
Your BFFs. You love your best friends and their kids are incredible, so it makes sense that you want to use the same methods they are using. This is where you have to keep in mind that they are different from you and their children are different from yours. You need to do what works well for you and your child not mimic someone else and hope for the best.
Your Neighbors. Sometimes we do things differently because other people are watching. We all do that, am I right? I’ve been known to yell at my kids to be quiet because other people were shaking their heads at their behavior even though my kids hadn’t been bothering me a bit. So, it might happen, but keep your eyes open to avoid this bump when you can.
Your Child’s Teachers. These amazing people will know a different child than the one who lives with you. The way they manage to get your child to do something will have little to no bearing on how you will get your child to do something. Be grateful that they’ve figured out their own keys to parenthood and cycle merrily away knowing you do it the way you need to.
Random Strangers. These challenges will appear frequently when your children are very young which makes them dangerous. You haven’t quite figured out how to balance.
You’re still developing your parenting strategies and random strangers have a way of saying things that stay with you for, like, ever. Think of random stranger comments as gravel. It’s everywhere and you must learn to look straight ahead and focus on yourself.
Parenthood Experts. You must even be careful of people like me and everyone else who writes about parenting because, after all, I’ve already told you that unicycling can’t be taught. So if we follow through with my metaphor, parenting can’t really be taught either. Trust yourself, listen to how others have done it, and take only parenting advice what works for you.
Be especially careful when attending storytime at the library, sporting events where your children are competing, and restaurants.
These are the places where your unicycle will have the most trouble.
Storytime mothers will gasp when you plop a pacifier in your child’s mouth, your seat will start to come loose when you don’t yell at your child for not making a goal, and your wheel will bump into table after table in that crowded restaurant.
When in doubt, stay home where you can be in control and gather your bearings before heading back out again. No one ever regretted quiet time with their children at home over grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup.
Use an always-updated GPS
There are cool tools to use when you are a parent. Some books and apps are going to seem like the straight path to perfection. They will work, until they don’t. Unless you’ve been there, this is one of those things you’re going to have to trust me on.
When I first moved to the town I live in now, I used my GPS to get everywhere. I was all, who needs to remember directions or landmarks? Not me! Until my GPS wanted me to take a left into a statue. I was so angry. “There’s a statue here!” I yelled and shook my fist at the GPS on my phone.
Then, I turned around, thought about where I was, and drove myself to the place I needed to go.
Tools are great, but don’t expect them to do your job.
In this same vein, don’t harbor resentments against the bumps and potholes that get in your way. They all mean well. No one is out there trying to make your parenthood fail. It might have worked for them or they might have heard that it could.
Listen, maybe even try some things out, but keep your balance. Use the three pillars of trust, support, and patience to grow your confidence.
Riding a unicycle might sound like an outrageous and ridiculous idea when there are so many perfectly usable bicycles lying around at your disposal, but you’ll be psyched once you’ve tried it. Because nothing about parenthood says cool more than the parent who rides her unicycle into school to pick up her kid at the end of the day.
Well, maybe don’t do that. It doesn’t seem that cool now that I write it down.
Author: Kimberley Moran
Kimberley Moran is a mother, a parenting expert, an educator, and the author of Hacking Parenthood: 10 Mantras You Can Use Daily to Reduce the Stress of Parenting. You can find her on Twitter (@kimberleymoran), and on her blog (kimberleygmoran.blogspot.com/). To join in the hacking parenthood conversation check out #parentmantras on Twitter.