Managing to Parent

There are some things I just won’t do.

Actually, it might be a shorter list to talk about things I will do, all filed under the category of “Something I Decided for Myself and Was Not Compelled to Do.” But I’m specifically talking about parenting advice here.

I won’t read parenting books, and I rarely read parenting articles. It’s hard enough raising these kids, without being told that their entire moral and emotional development hinges on how well I do my job, and P.S. It’s up to you to make sure they love God.

(Possibly this isn’t your impression of a particular parenting guru. Feel free to recommend one to me! I’ll ignore it. I don’t read parenting advice.)

But I do live with the same fears and anxieties as other parents, so it’s possible that I make my life harder than it should be. Sometimes I find older friends whose advice I trust, and I’ll talk to them. And sometimes I draw encouragement from sources that have absolutely nothing to do with parenting.

So let me tell you about the book I just read, which really helped me in my parenting journey. It’s Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull, co-founder of Pixar, and Amy Wallace, and it’s all about how to preserve the creative process within a successful business.

While you’re stifling your yawns, let me say that I enjoyed it thoroughly. The tone is warm and personable, the ideas well-organized, and (as we say every time they put out a new movie) — hey, it’s Pixar!

For one thing, I found a lot of hope in his descriptions of the creative process:

“All Pixar movies are terrible at first.”

[Referring to an analogy that compares the creation of a story to digging for dinosaur bones] “Not every bone you unearth will necessarily belong to the skeleton you are trying to assemble. There may be the bones of several different dinosaurs — or stories —  mixed up at your dig site.”

[Talking about the story for Up]: “…drill down to the emotional core of his characters and then build the story around that.”

But then he kept talking about being a good manager, and I I kept finding applications to my parenting, which is when I realized that I was possibly in need of encouragement. The quote that stuck with me most was this one:

“But the job is never what we think it is. The trick is to forget our models about what we “should” be. A better measure of our success is to look at the people on our team and see how they are workig together. Can they rally to solve key problems? If the answer is yes, you are managing well.”

And I thought of the many anxieties I’ve been fighting. I worry about whether my children will be really prepared for teenagerhood and adulthood. I can’t make friends for them, make them eat right, make them manage their time well, make them know God. I can’t make them do anything. 

But I can be ready to listen, and talk, and adjust. DJ and I can aim for a household that meets problems and solves them as a team.

With that in mind, I feel like I can relax a little now. It’s a good idea and has helped me.

Well, yeah. After all — hey, it’s Pixar!


One thought on “Managing to Parent

  1. From the time I had my second kid on, I realized that my kids were pretty much going to be who they were going to be, regardless of what I did. I have five with *completely* different and contrasting personalities. It’s hard to believe sometimes that they share DNA. My best hope is that I can avoid screwing them up too much.

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