In general, parents tend to fear the things they can't control. We tend to be particularly afraid of the sensational hazards, those that draw unwelcome attention and make for movie-of-the-week melodramas. From the graduation from diapers to pants and first loves to getting caught shoplifting candy from a convenience store, there are plenty of opportunities for parents and their children to feel like they've blown it.
But the good news is this: you're doing fine.
The fact of the matter is that life is a lot shorter than we give it credit for, and for parents, that short span of years is made up of a series of firsts.
That's true for you, me, and every parent on the planet. So let's start by giving each other some room to learn, react and grow.
If you have more than one child — or any number of siblings — you probably already know how tough life can be on first kids and first time parents.
So many experiences in life can be deemed traumatizing in growing up and parenting alike, and while we may flippantly attribute some of the most horrendous scenarios to bad parenting in someone else's family, it's not usually how we see it if we're the parent.
Somewhere near the middle of my military career my wife and I got a call to meet with the commandant of the overseas housing area we lived in. For a military family, that is not a good thing. The commandant is someone whose face is framed in an official hallway somewhere — not sizing you up from across an oversize desk in a quiet office. Whatever our kid had done had put our ability to reside on that installation in jeopardy. In serious cases, families can be ordered to return to the continental U.S. while the military member served out the rest of the tour alone. Not a desirable option. Definitely not the type of thing that gets you promoted.
Here's the thing: I don't even remember what happened. I can't recall whatever incident led to the meeting, and I don't remember the meeting itself beyond its implications. Gone. Forgotten.
Yet at the time, it seemed like the end of the world.
Looking past the truly catastrophic situations that may occur in your life, or the lives of those around you, I want to encourage you with three simple things you need as a parent: License, Love and Forgiveness.
Your license to parent is like a two-sided coin. One side affords you the power to exercise the discipline needed to steer your children toward becoming the best person they possibly can be.
The other side of that coin is love. Discipline with love will always yield the greatest results, because in that is care and concern for the outcome.
And finally, forgiveness. Your child will make mistakes, and so will you. Learn early on to own and accept those things that don't go according to plan, because there will be plenty. Perhaps forgiveness will be a little easier when you pause to realize this – not only is it your first time parenting, but it's your child's first time being your kid.