So, I've been thinking of the "soulmate theory" lately.
Part of it was this post on the impossibility of everyone having one theoretical soulmate in the world. Part of it was the amazing song the article linked to. Part of it is simply that it's a theme constantly running in my mind.
I love Andrew dearly and I hope to love him more and more with each year and day and hour that we spend married to each other. But I do honestly believe that I would find a marriage to any number of men equally satisfactory and wonderful--in some ways even more so, in some a lot less. Andrew and I fell in love and dated and married, but I don't think we were destined for each other, or that there is a possibility I picked the wrong one and I am actually destined for someone else. I think we chose each other, pure and simple, and vowed to be stuck with each other, for better or for worse.
I think the idea that love and marriage are matters of fate and destiny and hoping to find the Right Person is a pretty deceiving one, and permeates a lot of the way we think about relationships. But that's another rant and one I've had plenty of times before. What I've been thinking about lately is that we often approach parenting in the same way.
I spend a lot of time thinking about the best way to raise my child; probably too much time, to be honest. And it's a vortex that is easy to be sucked into, because there is so much information out there. It's a double-edged sword, I think. We are incredibly lucky to have such a wide range of research and experience to draw on. We don't have to do things the way they've been done, simply because that's all we know. But on the other hand, the information can be overwhelming. And the opinions can be even more overwhelming.
It goes deeper than just the ever-present Mommy Wars. Underneath the sometimes-uplifting, sometimes-petty debates about clothing and feeding and sleeping and teaching, we all truly want what is best for our children. And I think that sometimes we are searching, perhaps without even knowing it, for our parenting-style Soulmate, so to speak. For the way of parenting, whatever it is, that we can start dating, and eventually marry, that will be compatible with us and make our journey with our children smooth and peaceful and make everything turn out right in the end.
I think we all know, in our hearts, that it isn't that simple. We know that every relationship involves real people and is therefore much messier than it looks on paper or computer screen. But we keep looking anyway. We may know, and believe, that there is no One Right Way of Parenting. But we want the best. We spend a lot of time trying to find the best. And when new research comes out, or new people influence our lives, we feel guilty for not having known, for having given our children less than the best.
But you know what? I don't think there is a Best Way, any more than there is a Right Way. I think the way we parent is dependent on hundreds of factors--our personalities, our children's personalities, where we live, what kind of support systems we have, what kinds of stress we are experiencing, to name only a few. We will grow and change as time goes on, and we won't parent the same way all the time. And that's okay. I do think, when it comes down to it, that I am doing a good job mothering Peregrine. But I also think I could have made hundreds of different choices and still be doing a good job. Just like I could have married any number of men and had a good marriage. It doesn't negate the beauty and wonderfulness of the marriage I have. It just puts it into some perspective.
Of course I want what is best for my child. The vast majority of mothers do. But I'm learning it's more complicated than that. There certainly isn't a right way to raise a child. There may not be a best way either. But there are many, many, many good ways to raise a child. I hope I will always seek after the good for myself, and always recognize it when it is present in others.