“You’re doing everything you can.”
This is what Little D’s speech therapist said to me last fall when she could tell my anxiety level was rising. These words — and the lesson they taught– have stuck with me ever since.
Those 5 words popped into my head once again when a reader asked: “How do you stay fearless when there’s so much in the outside world you can’t control?” Because like every parent on the planet, I too worry about all the crazy stuff that can happen to my kids. But those 5 words put me in a different direction, one that empowers me instead of making me feel helpless.
My coping mechanism
One of the ways I cope with challenges is to learn all I can about them. In other words, I research, research, research. When Big A refused the breastfeed at 7 weeks, I learned everything about exclusive pumping I could. My doctor said I couldn’t do it, but I was finding many moms who could and a great little book that showed me how. And I made it to almost a year! I simply learned more about it than my doctor knew because even the brightest people in the world don’t have time to research everything.
I find that when I learn everything I need know about something, the right answer eventually becomes clear. It’s in the learning that I am able to look at the problem from different angles. Understanding what contributes to challenges allows me to develop strategies that treat the root cause instead of the symptom. Without that knowledge, it feels like I’m banging my head against the wall. There seem to be only one or two solutions, and if those aren’t possible, I’m screwed.
Will the real obstacle stand up?
I usually find in the process of gathering information that the way to handle a problem ends up being the complete opposite of what I thought it would be. Oddly, what I originally viewed as the can’t-move obstacle becomes the way* to the solution. For example, in my e-book From Picky to Powerful, I argue that picky eating (for most kids anyway) isn’t really a problem at all. In fact, when looked at for what it really is, kids’ normal learning process, it can be powerful and instantly change the way parents and kids interact with food.
These obstacles end up being my greatest teachers. If I can muddle through them and get to the other side, I am a much better person for it. I may not love the struggle when I’m in it, but without challenge, there is no growth.
Taking control of what you can, and letting go of the rest
There’s one thing this process (and 5 words) doesn’t give me: absolute certainty. That is what my reader is getting at with her question. When I talk about being a fearless feeder, it’s not about eradicating fear. It’s about not letting the fear of uncertainty get the best of you. It just makes sense to come to peace with this because no parent can ever be 100% certain how things will turn out. What good does fear ever do but cause more problems?
Wise parenting is about making informed decisions and then letting go. And those 5 words – you’re doing everything you can – remind us that we’re fighting the only fight we can actually win. And because of that, our children will benefit more than we can imagine.
* Special thanks to Ryan Holiday’s book, The Obstacle is the Way, for helping me articulate this reality.
Thank you, this is one of the best things I could ever hear or read as a parent that has had endless problems with my kid’s eating problems, even some that saw him in hospital.
It’s also good to hear that you also admit that doctors are human and don’t always know everything (as I’ve found the harder way than most), and it’s up to us as parents to.. ‘do everything we can’, and that worry is sometimes more of a problem than anything
Maryann Tomovich Jacobsen, MS, RD says
Thanks Rohan. You’re right it is hard! To get to the bottom of things, you have to be very resourceful.
Thanks for this, Maryann! I love how this applies to all things “raising kids” – feeding, discipline, healthy (kid/parent, sibling) relationships, and even how we continue to grow as adults!
Maryann Tomovich Jacobsen, MS, RD says
Your welcome Allison. Yes, it does apply to all things parenting. While it’s nice to have access to so much information, sometimes that can be a hindrance giving us a false sense of control. When really, it just helps us make informed decisions.