The Hippocratic Oath of Parenting

Okay. So the truth is, I am a horribly flawed parent. I get exasperated by my youngest’s unwillingness to wear anything other than brown or….darker brown, and down right angry at her nightly resistance to going to bed. I frequently guilt-trip my middle kid about the cost of violin lessons vs the amount of practice time I judge to be lacking, and I’ve been known to tell my eldest that he’s acting like an ass when his choices don’t meet my approval.

Every day – in many ways – I fall down on the ice rink of parenting. I slip into officious bossy-ness when the conditions of the ice aren’t up to snuff. I flounder ungracefully on the blade’s edge between attempting to control and offering to guide, and am sometimes more absorbed in my own needs than those of the skaters I brought here to coach.Someone asked me after my son’s cancer diagnosis whether I now found myself wishing I had made any different parenting choices or – to put it plainly – whether or not I was wrestling with any regrets in my relationship with my boy?While considering one’s regrets can be a daily activity (or obsession), this has not been a pastime of mine in the parenting realm despite my plethora of flaws. Oh sure, there have been moments I’d like to have done things differently (done a bit more deep breathing, counted to a hundred – fourteen more times, put myself in “time out”), but for the most part, I’ve stayed out of contrition’s ruts on my metaphorical rink. And as I’m sure even those of you who have never known cancer personally can guess, I am now a hundred times more committed to living life fully and with as few regrets as possible — especially where my kids are concerned.

In our humanness and varying degrees of personal evolution, and for those of us who are parents – where so much is trial and error –  a certain amount of “small stuff” remorse is inevitable. But here’s the crucial piece: Regrets are not the result of a “shit happens” experience like leukemia. Regrets are the progeny of choices poorly made that cannot be undone.

Wait. What? True this: Many regrets are in fact, the result of choices.

Examples of serious, real life and harmful parenting choices include: deliberately and knowingly using one’s child as a pawn in a failing marriage; teaching your children to be fearful or intolerant of those who are different than or don’t agree with you; fostering judgment and meanness by example; teaching children to act like and become victims rather than embrace and practice honesty; modeling running away rather than accepting responsibility; teaching your child to throw away relationships like broken cars rather than invest in the healing process. The list goes on.

So how as parents, can we make decisions that will reduce potential long-range damage to our kids caused by regret? We can try to keep one particular phrase of Hippocrates’s famous oath in our hearts and minds at all times – even and perhaps most especially when – we, the parents, may be the very perpetrators of the injury. The phrase is:“I will keep them from harm and injustice.”

As a parent who has learned the hard way what it feels like when the power to keep your child safe from harm has been taken out of your hands, trust me on this one. If you have the opportunity, intelligence, compassion, good sense, love and CHOICE to keep your child as safe, whole and happy as you possibly can, do it. Don’t be selfish; don’t wait. Do it. Now. There’s no excuse not to, and you won’t regret it.

About Martha Phelps Studio ~ creative on purpose

...a meandering journal of a changing life and the unexpected graces it brings. Earlier posts may provide some history, but this series of writings aren't likely to follow a straight line as I explore topics such as raising kids, making choices, self discovery, the impact of change on a family and how to (hopefully) live with balance and purpose.
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