My children have watched me intimately since they were born, of course.
They know me in ways that nobody else does. For better and for worse.
They know how to track the subtle changes of light and shadow that move across my face in a single day. They know how to listen to the nuances in my voice.
They have watched me in my mundane maneuvering of everyday life, caring for them, for our hearth and home, and they have watched me sitting at the altar of my life—relentlessly committed to making love and truth the bottom line.
They’ve seen me triggered, confronted, and fervently willing to grow and evolve.
They’ve tasted firsthand the fruits of my devotion, my commitment to opening wider to everything that stands in the way of love.
They’ve witnessed me at my messiest, most unskillful, hormonal, and reactive, and they’ve witnessed my humbled remorse, apology, and accountability.
In being alive, we can’t help but keep growing up right alongside our children. As we steward our children’s growth, we ourselves grow up—emotionally, relationally, intellectually, professionally, financially, energetically, and spiritually.
As a single mother and their primary provider since they were small, my children have watched me meet growth edge after growth edge, ever-expanding in my dharmic capacity, as well as in my responsibilities as their mother.
In many moments over the years things have gotten tenuous for us financially, and my kids have gotten to watch me work this scary edge.
They’ve watched me work other edges of grief or disappointment as well, such as when I failed to publish my first book, after pouring my heart into it for years.
More than once, they’ve watched as I nursed a broken heart in the wake of cherished relationships changing form.
It’s beautiful and in some ways unavoidable, this way that our children get to intimately witness us as we meet the growing edges of our lives, honed by the fires that life relentlessly includes.
I could be wrong, but I also sense there’s something inherently more exposed, or more hopelessly out of control in the dynamic of solo parenting.
Clearly, there’s just more work, more to hold on one’s own, and in this more opportunities for overwhelm. But there’s also less space for compartmentalization, and fewer chances to hand off our kids when hard emotions or triggers are arising.
Unless we do a really good job of suppressing or repressing what’s genuinely present for us or postponing our authentic experience until later, then we get to be seen by our children in the wild realness and vulnerability that we include.
How powerful for them to see us face a true challenge, and all that this asks for us to embrace and work with—emotionally, mentally, circumstantially, and spiritually.
How extraordinary it is to simply model for our children this way we show up day after day to do what’s needed to provide for them, while simultaneously making medicine of our challenges.
Somehow we find the courage to keep letting go and to keep rising up, to surrender and to stretch, to leap and to land. And our kids watch us! They watch us so carefully. They watch our every move.
I don’t believe our goal as parents should be to model some culturally idealized image of success, significance, and impact, as much as to model humanness, in all the vulnerability, willingness, and courage our humanness includes.
As we transparently expose our own growing edges, our willingness to be messy as well as accountable, and our humble willingness to learn and grow from our mistakes, our children learn how to include and accept every aspect of their own humanness as well.
Of course, careful listening and attunement to our children’s boundaries—expressed and unexpressed—is essential. There are appropriate ways of honoring the developmental stages and boundaries of our children’s psyches, in what and how we choose to share and expose.
And yet sometimes what are kids are exposed to is messy and less than ideal, and that’s ok too. It’s ok that we’re human and limited and still growing. Life clearly loves to provide us with endless opportunities for self-compassion and self-forgiveness!
This willingness to be deeply seen and fully known by our kids goes both ways and sets a standard for relational intimacy in their lives. Not only do our children come to know us in a way that is an unspeakable gift, but they also let themselves be known.
My thirteen-year-old said to me recently: “You know me better than anyone in the whole world, Mom. You know the truth of my soul, you know my bad habits and things I’m working on, you know when I’m lying or sneaking, and you know who I really want to be.” Indeed.
As our children individuate and experiment with testing limits, and start making less than excellent choices, they know there is nothing they could ultimately do or say that is beyond the scope of our love.
They also know they are seen, tracked, contained, and held accountable for their actions. They know that while making mistakes is inevitable and to be expected, their capacity to learn from their mistakes is also expected.
This provides a model for evolution that wholeheartedly includes our humanness; that celebrates our willingness to make and grow from mistakes, as opposed to holding up some idealized projection of perfection.
When our kids have witnessed us continuously widening in self-love in the face of all the humanness WE include, then they know this ever-widening in love and acceptance extends to them as well.
What a vital discovery—to know that we can be loved and we can love, one another and ourselves, just as we are. ✨
This old photo is a favorite from the archives of sacred family photo shoots with the ever-talented Ahri Golden. 💖