I’m a child of the 80s, and my parents were children of the 50s and 60s. Talking about, acknowledging, sitting with vulnerability? Ha! That just wasn’t a thing. The longer I’m a parent, the more I see the value and necessity of practicing vulnerability with my children. They need to know I’m human, that I have good days and bad days just like anyone else. They need to know that I don’t have it all figured out and actually, no parent does. When I’ve done wrong or I’ve overreacted about something, I have apologized to my kids. I want them to know about humility, honesty, owning up to our mistakes. Vulnerability isn’t easy, it’s usually messy and can feel like an uphill battle at times. I often wrestle with my heart and gut telling me one thing about being genuine with the world and what my mind wants to shut out and protect me from. As long as I live, I’ll be learning what vulnerability means and what it looks like to live it out.
We can teach our children the numerous benefits of living life vulnerably. The concept doesn’t need to be associated with challenges like it so often is, but ought to be viewed as one’s ability to weather difficult circumstances and come out better in the end. Approaching life this way can help us foster confidence, authenticity, compassion, empathy, and self-love in our children.
My husband and I have two children – a daughter, and a son. We try our best to parent them similarly in that we don’t teach our daughter “only girl things” or our son “only boy things.” That’s outdated, offensive, and belittling on so many fronts. We’re teaching them about respect for themselves, respect for others, and compassion and empathy at all times. Like vulnerability, these topics are messy and can require a lot of dedication and work. It’s all worth it t though, it has to be. To teach my children what it means to let yourself feel all the things, to let others share in those feelings and experiences with you, and to come out stronger and wiser because of it all is a task I take seriously. Do I mess up? All. The. Time. Am I going to keep working on this? Absolutely.
As for how I was raised, I get it. Like me and like every other parent on the planet, my parents were doing the best that they could and taught me what they knew to be true. If vulnerability, acknowledging the spectrum of emotions, and emotional intimacy aren’t modeled for you, it’s quite hard to learn how to model it for someone else. I’m grateful for my upbringing and the dozens of ways that my parents provided for me and taught me well. I’m grateful too for friends, college professors, life experiences, etc. that have shown me the value of vulnerability and how critical it is to truly live the human experience well. My hope is that when my children look back on these years, they will remember a parent who was real with them throughout life’s highs and lows and who showed them love, nurturing, and acceptance with courage and strength.
Kelli Blinn lives in Columbus, Ohio with her husband of 14 years, their 11-year-old daughter, and their 8-year-old son. In addition to her work as a labor doula, Kelli is a childbirth educator, an infant feeding specialist, and a peer recovery supporter for pregnant and postpartum moms with the POEM program. In her free time, she enjoys listening to podcasts, going to concerts, meeting friends for coffee or cocktails, and anything having to do with potatoes.