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Don't keep parenting encouragement under wraps - parents need to hear it

Val Kleppen, Parenting Perspectives columnist

Over the holidays (which seem so long ago already) the kids and I headed to a friend's house to frost cookies. Frosting cookies is not something I enjoy, but friendship is, so it was a worthwhile venture for me.

Sitting at her table, discussing the difficult time I was having over the holidays, she said something that stuck with me. Her point was, even though we're in our "perfect spot" in life with our new home, our new routine, and our new pursuits, perhaps my subconscious still recognizes a big piece of our puzzle is missing.

This coming April marks five years since our second daughter, Harlynn, was stillborn. The years since her passing have been what I call "a beautiful mess."

What I loved about that conversation with my friend is she sympathized with my struggle and invited me over to help me wrestle with everything I was going through.

I desperately needed support, and she willingly offered it at just the right time.

Not all parents have lost a child (thankfully), but all parents struggle in some fashion or another. All parents need those friends who say, "I know it's hard. Let's just share the hard together." Whether it's over frosted cookies, hot coffee, or a box of Kleenex, every parent needs time shared with a friend who gets it.

Parenting is tough, and we all need each other.

I love the stories other parents share of being in public places — stores, restaurants, doctor's offices — and they're at their wit's end with their children. In those moments, someone approaches them with a compliment, "Your kids are so well-behaved" or "you're doing such a good job." It completely turns their day around. Why? Because we parents need support!

Everything you experience in life — traumatic, exhilarating and even the mediocre — prepares you to be able to support someone else who experiences something similar. Parenting is no different.

When Harlynn died, my world completely crumbled.

But it was rebuilt.

Everything I knew was changed, and while that experience was such a mess, so much of it today is so beautiful.

Because of what we went through and experienced, we were able to start Harlynn's Heart. I'm able to lend an understanding ear to other bereaved parents. I'm able to support them and encourage them for no reason other than I get it.

Giving Hearts Day is right around the corner. Whatever you've been through, an organization exists to help others who have experienced similar journeys. We all need support, and Giving Hearts Day is one way to encourage someone else, simply because you get it.

We're fortunate enough to live in a region where support and generosity are highly valued. We're fortunate enough to live in a community where others encourage us when they see we need it.

We're fortunate enough to have each other, because some days we flat out need each other.

And parents? You're doing a great job.

Val Kleppen is a local wife, mother, blogger and co-founder of Harlynn's Heart, a group that comforts families who face infant loss. Her blog can be read at mindmumbles.com.

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