Climbing The Parenting Staircase


“Faith is taking the first step even when you can’t see the whole staircase”  –Martin Luther King Jr.

Whenever I read Dr. King’s poignant quote, I think about the parenting staircase we are all climbing.  Whether confidently or cautiously, we scale each successive step without complete certainty of where it’s leading us next.

The ascent begins when we first learn we’re becoming parents.  As we stand at the foot of that  staircase, most of us probably only see the first couple steps, with the hope of having a healthy pregnancy and delivery.  These are followed, much too quickly, by the steps of a new baby, their first steps, preschool and elementary school, adolescence, etc., etc.  Every step may have it’s uncertainties and creaks, yet each also seems to build upon the last.  Our family has been facing several steps of uncertainty this year, with Kiki entering middle school and Conor in his sophomore year of  high school.  Hormones, driving, dating, college prep…Have faith, have faith.

Yet successfully navigating this parenting journey involves more than just faith, as most of us know.  It also requires a vision.  In Dr. King’s life,  he had both the faith in the importance of his cause and a clarity of vision, including where he wanted to take us as a nation, and the powerful tools of nonviolence he would utilize to achieve this.

Yet, how many of us who made sure to  have a birth plan in the hospital, also have a family vision?  A vision to assess where our family is right now, where we want to go, and what specific steps we can take to get there?

I recently read that one approach to implementing a vision, is to see all things as created twice.  First as a mental creation and then as a physical creation (just like a building follows its blueprints).  The goal is to to approach our vision clearly, knowing where we want to go and how we’re going to get there.  If we don’t visualize what we want, then we risk other people and external circumstances influencing our lives instead.

As  my boys get older, I am increasingly aware of the outsize influence other people and external circumstances can have, especially if I don’t stay clear on what is most important, which is to stay connected.  So what is my mental creation of  this goal?  Basically it’s the vision (and hope) that when they are adults, my boys will look at their mama as someone they’ll want to spend time with, not purely out of obligation, but because they genuinely want to.  And what can I physically create now in our relationship that can hopefully move us towards this vision?  I’m working to fit in more positive activities and experiences we can share, more interactive discussion time (with less nagging) and continually striving to be their emotional “soft landing.”

Overall, I  want them to always know our home will be a safe harbor from all that we face outside. It’s not easy, especially with the competing forces of busy schedules, inevitable testing of boundaries and their striving towards independence.  Still, having this vision of connection helps give me clarity and stay grounded, particularly during moments of uncertainty.

So as we celebrate Dr, King this week, and watch his powerful I Have a Dream speech with our families, let us all, wherever we are on that parenting staircase, listen closely to his eloquence and unwavering faith and vision, both for our nation, and for his four little children, whom he aspired would one day, “not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

May his words and dreams be a testament to the powers of faith and vision for us all.

Happy New Year.


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  • Christie

    Shaila, as always, your blog is inspiring. It is so easy to get caught up in the day to day and to forget how it all fits in the big picture. After reading this I was reminded of the activity we did in class where we came up with the qualities we want to see in our children in 18 years. Thank you again for always sharing your wisdom!

  • Camgold007

    Shaila– It’s cam and I’m getting caught up on all your posts! Great job.  I think I’m a on the second step of the staircase, and scared to look up.  All the best!