My commitment to being a more mindful, present, and peaceful parent has seeped into all areas of my life. I’m gentler with myself and others. I’m more aware of and accepting of my own weaknesses, and I’m more able to see the poor behavior of others as communication of an unmet need or a sign of suffering.
Just as I can give my son the benefit of the doubt while expressing boundaries respectfully, I’m learning I can do the same with friends, family members, and professional connections. It turns out that peaceful parenting has made me an all-around better person. I can still be critical, and I’m still a perfectionist, but I’m better able recognize these traits as they arise. They no longer have me in a headlock.
The most dramatic shift peaceful parenting has had in my life has been in my friendships. I’ve cultivated some dear friendships through our shared value of peaceful parenting. Without peaceful parenting, I wouldn’t have the tribe I do. We encourage each other, believe in each other, and take care of each other. We know that parenting this way is a huge undertaking, and we’re rooting for each other. I’ve never had better friendships in my life than I do right now.
And yet, these improvements have come at a price. Peaceful parenting has also cost me relationships. Some of my dearest friendships from years before becoming a parent didn’t fare well when it was clear our values were diverging.
There was the friend who told me that my then two-year-old son didn’t sit quietly at the ice cream parlor because of my parenting. Never mind his age and the errands we’d already run. As time progressed, it became clear that we were simply choosing two very different lifestyles. I felt judged by her, and despite my best efforts, I fear she felt judged by me. When this relationship first began to shift, I felt self-conscious. I felt like a failure. It sucked.
Then there was the friend I’d had for decades who ghosted me soon after I began writing articles about parenting. We never had a conversation about it since she dropped off the face of the planet, but the timing couldn’t be ignored. I wish she’d told me how she felt because I think we could have actually worked through it. It’s possible that my perception of what happened is entirely off-base. Regardless, we can’t force someone to be our friend any more than we can force a two-year-old to sit still in Dairy Queen. We can only do our part to be kind and honest. Then we just have to let go.
Peaceful parenting has enriched my life in so many ways. I’m more content with the person I am now than I’ve ever been before. And yet, it’s been painful. It’s been plagued with loss. Even if these friendships were no longer a good fit, it still hurt to lose them.
Regardless, we can’t force someone to be our friend any more than we can force a two-year-old to sit still in Dairy Queen. We can only do our part to be kind and honest. Then we just have to let go.
Once we begin to change, there’s no turning back. We can’t fully return to the people we were last year. When we’re on a trajectory toward a healthier life, our old relationships may not survive. They might feel too small, too constricting. My old friends may very well have been on their own paths of self-improvement. It may be that they too had outgrown our relationship. It could be that as we both changed, our values no longer aligned.
No healthy relationship will ever discourage you from growing. The mark of a good friendship is one where the other person celebrates your wins with you. A good friend will never feel threatened by your self-improvement; she won’t try to stifle you. Sometimes we have to leave old relationships behind. It’s bittersweet because sometimes growing means growing apart. We can never stay small or sick for other people, and seeking to be the best version of ourselves is the greatest gift we can give to the people we love.
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