Actually, you get MANY cracks at raising your children and being a parent because the process takes years, not seconds.
“You get only one crack at it,” my mother has often said about raising kids. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The only thing you literally get only one crack at is an event that takes only seconds, such as a dive in a springboard diving competition.
Gee, even a figure skater, whose performance lasts only four minutes, gets more than one crack (which is why sometimes, a skater who falls still goes on to win the event!).
You get many cracks in a tennis match. You could miss many shots and still win. And a tennis match can be over sooner than it takes to help your child with her science fair project.
You do NOT get one crack at raising a child.
An example is a woman I read about in an advice column who had a sullen, withdrawn adolescent daughter. The mother was doing something wrong. She couldn’t figure out what, but was open to finding out.
So one day she decided that every time she was on the brink of criticizing the girl, she’d instead zip her lip, take deep breaths, count to 10 and simply say nothing. She did this for 30 days straight.
At the end of 30 days, the change in her daughter was remarkable. The girl was more outgoing, happier, and even a teacher who ran into the mother at the local supermarket commented how the girl had suddenly began flourishing.
The mother changed the course of history in only 30 DAYS.
You do NOT get only one crack at parenthood.
You get MANY cracks…many, many chances to change your tune, to take a detour, to try a new route, to stop doing the same things over and over that don’t work, to wake up and smell the coffee that maybe your ways are damaging your children, not benefiting them.
What you reap unfolds before your eyes in very slow motion, not the fast motion of a gymnast on the balance beam who teeters and falls off, blowing the entire routine.
“You do get only one chance to parent your child, in that the child will grow up and be beyond your influence,” says Tina B. Tessina, PhD, a licensed psychotherapist in Southern California who counsels individuals and couples, and is author of over a dozen books including “It Ends With You: Grow Up and Out of Dysfunction.”
But Dr. Tessina then points out, “However, within the years that you have that influence, there’s absolutely no need to be perfect. In fact, a child will learn more from seeing you admit and correct your parenting mistakes than he or she will from perfect parenting.
“Psychologists speak of the ‘good enough parent’ who is a parent who is not God-like and perfect, but a real human being who models a lot of good behavior, but also admits errors and corrects them.”
A man once wrote to an advice column to share his story. One day he was telling his three-year-old son to name anything in the world he’d like Daddy to do for him.
The boy said, “Daddy, I want you to stop hitting me.”
The father could have scolded the boy with, “Well you keep being such a bad little boy I HAVE to hit you!”
Imagine how damaged this boy would have turned out had Daddy stayed on this path.
But the man realized he was being offered a new crack at parenthood—very early on in the game, too.
He decided to stop hitting his son. He wrote to the advice column several years after this rude awakening to report that people in public would come over and compliment him on how well-behaved his son was.
A parent gets many opportunities (perhaps thousands over just 12 months alone) to take different cracks at parenthood.
Every time your child suggests something to you that relates to how you treat him or her…THAT is an opportunity.
I don’t mean letting your 13-year-old date a 17-year-old because she begged you to, but often, kids do ask for reasonable requests.
Let’s say this 13-year-old is always getting picked on by an older sister and arguing always ensues.
Their mother always jumps in and yells, “Stop this bickering! You two disgust me! I’m ashamed I ever had you!”
One day the 13-year-old asks her mother, “Next time Gina and I are going at it, can you not intervene and just let us work it out on our own as long as it doesn’t get physical?”
Right then and there, the mother has a choice: Stay on the same destructive, worthless path that has failed to work for several years, or…take a NEW crack at parenthood.
If she bites back at the girl and tells her she has no business telling her how to parent, this woman pretty much guarantees that the girls will be fighting with each other for decades.
When the mother is 60 (and daughters estranged from each other) she’ll be telling everyone, “You get only one crack at parenthood. It’s a crapshoot.”
This mother will never realize that she’d once had a golden opportunity to change the long-term outcome.
Dr. Tessina explains, “It’s very important to have a relationship with your child in which you take the lead and teach them what they need to know, but also are kind, understanding and caring.
“This is not always easy to accomplish, and many mistakes will happen along the way.
“However, if you own up to your less-than-perfect moments, and make amends, correcting the problems, you’ll be okay. Your child can still love and respect you if he or she knows you’re an imperfect, real, human being, too.”
Parents have endless chances to alter that trajectory. Every chance, every opportunity, is a new crack at parenthood.
BUT…as the child gets older…those new cracks will have declining effect.
A 16-year-old who’s been damaged by a non-empathetic, harsh parent is more hardwired with the fallout than is the nine-year-old sibling.
Dr. Tessina appears frequently on radio, TV, video and podcasts, and has been in private practice for over 30 years.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.