January 28, 2022
By Dr. Pat Blackwell
I began writing my Learning Years column in NOLA Baby (as the magazine was originally called) very near the start of the whole thing.
Over lunch with Ann Herren in 2006, I offered to write for the publication because there was such a need for a progressive parenting resource in our community. I had a positive feeling about Ann and her ability to succeed (which she has). At the time, I had been working with children and families for over 20 years. My goal was to provide clearly stated, practical, and insightful writings that spanned a wide range of topics. In every article, I wanted my passion for children and parents singularly and as a family unit to be clear, and I do believe I accomplished this challenge.
My other goal was to encourage parents to relax a bit and enjoy the process of caregiving without judging themselves (or others) when the wheels fly off. Parenting is a tough job physically and emotionally. We second guess, make mistakes, cry, laugh, and sometimes even sleep! What I have learned as a student of human development is that children are resilient and parents truly have a great deal of latitude to make mistakes.
Parenting is a process of trial and error. Mistakes lead to learning and success. In other words, parenting is an active not a passive process, and we can all improve. This was a great relief to me as a parent because I made my share of mistakes. As a clinician and writer, I hope that I inspire parents to embrace and even celebrate imperfection of all sorts including our quirky, scruffy, sometimes naughty children. I hope we can learn to accept that we are all in a state of evolution and to practice patience and humor as we develop our own confidence. The real joys in parenting are the unexpected moments of intense love, care, and peace. If we are too hung up on perfection, competitive parenting, and control, we miss out on the best parts of the journey.
The notion that parenting is a journey is apt because we travel for only a brief time with our children. On the way, we teach and prepare the child to need us no longer. When it’s time, we go one way and our kids go another. But the path we take together is a learning experience for all.
While the 16 years of this Learning Years column was by no means a comprehensive road map for readers, I hope it provided some helpful tips along the path. A delightful benefit was winning six medals for excellence from The Parenting Media Association for the Learning Years column. For anyone interested in exploring a compilation of my NOLA Family articles, please visit my website patblackwellphd.com. I am grateful to Ann Herren for providing me with a wonderful platform to share my views and insights. It has been a wonderful experience.
Dr. Pat Blackwell