I recently graduated from “regular kid” parenting to “teenage kid” parenting. If you aren’t aware of the differences between the two, that must mean you don’t have a teenager yet.
(And if you have a teenager who stays a “regular kid,” send notes STAT.)
My teenager is great, don’t get me wrong. There are so many things about this phase to celebrate: we like the same music now, we can share shoes, she’s involved in school sports that are fun to watch. And she’s even broadened the number of restaurants she’ll eat at from three to five.
Recently, my friend Stacy texted me: [Daughter’s Name] told me about winning the oratorical contest! So proud of her!
Huh? I hadn’t heard anything about it. So, I knocked on my daughter’s door. “Hey, what’s Aunt Stacy talking about?”
She told me it was no big deal. And I’m not gonna lie: at first, I was hurt. Like, why wouldn’t that be the first thing you told me when you got in the car? Why am I hearing it secondhand? So, that’s what I asked her.
“I don’t know,” she said, which is one of her favorite answers right now.
Later on, after I’d cooled off a little, I thought about my daughter’s relationship with Stacy. Stacy is the parent of one of my kid’s best friends, and hers is one of the only houses my daughter has ever spent the night at. (She gets her homebody tendencies from her mama.)
My kid trusts Stacy. Stacy is a safe place. She wanted to share that win with Stacy, which should give me way more comfort than envy.
Our kids’ relationships with other adults matter more than we might think they do. Our kids’ relationships shape what they believe, who they become, and how they view the world around them. And, like it or not, there will come a point in every kid’s life when they need another adult … an adult who isn’t us.
Here at Orange, we believe in the principle of widening the circle—inviting other caring adults you trust to consistently show up in the life of your kid. Parenting is hard. And we were never meant to do it alone.
In fact, there are many cultures that don’t do parenting alone with such intentionality, some of their customs and practices may seem strange to us. Deep in the heart of Brazil are the indigenous Krahô people. Their parenting philosophy? Every child should have more than one mother. In fact, they use the word “inxe” for both their biological mother, their mother’s sisters, or even the women their mother considers sisters.[i] The word “aunt” does not exist in their language. They’re all mothers.
In Western culture, we put so much pressure on ourselves to be the perfect parent. It feels like it’s all on our shoulders. And we don’t dare ask another adult for actual help. Advice, sure. But help in the way of spending time with our kid? No way. We read the books, the blogs (like this one!), and we follow the parenting accounts. That’s all well and good, but have you ever considered widening the circle as a strategy that might make you a better parent? Not to “lessen the load,” but to afford your kid the opportunity to have another bank of wisdom and knowledge and experience to pull from.
You may be doing this already. If your kid spends quality time with their grandparents, that’s widening the circle. If your kid has a small group leader, that’s widening the circle. If you have a close friend who takes your kid to ice cream or asks them how they did at their oratorical contest, that counts, too.
If you’re not sure how to widen the circle for your kids, check out this blog for a few ideas.
No parent feels like they’re killing it. We all feel lost, frustrated, and inept at times. I’m not saying widening the circle will make any of those feelings go away completely, but it will help. It will also give you context for what your kid is thinking and feeling. And it will make you a better parent.