Coda Parenting Navigator: Introduction
Let’s be honest: Anyone else feel like they are ill-equipped to be a parent? Or, to put a finer point on it, does anyone feel like they are ill-equipped to be the kind of parent they want to be? That thought plagued me, despite having plenty of love to give, living in an affluent community surrounded by friends and family, and being a registered nurse. There was so much to do, and it had to be done right - because if I failed, the consequences would be borne by my son. I realized that my greatest responsibility to raise my son to be a well-adjusted adult who was creative, trustworthy, compassionate and able to function in the modern world with confidence and resilience. I needed to teach him how to make good decisions to keep himself safe and healthy. But as a nurse and single mother, I was exhausted and overwhelmed. I didn’t know where to begin, never mind how to chart a course over the next 21 years.
Relieved to learn that this mixture of love, newfound responsibility and profound cluelessness was pretty typical new-parent stuff, I reasoned that there were surely dozens of books or tools available to help me make sense of it all.
The term “parenting strategy” began to swirl in my brain. I combed the shelves online and in bookstores looking for a book that would help me carve out a parenting strategy that reflected my own beliefs, values, and priorities. I scoured the app store. I was certain that if I could find such a book or app, it would be the tool I would use to keep my head above water. The problem was, no such parenting strategy tool existed.
Everything I found on parenting was simply someone else’s advice about how to raise my kid. Believe me, I needed and sought plenty of advice from those experts, as well as from trusted family and friends. But prescriptive parenting books and tips from well-meaning friends didn’t solve my problem: Most of the advice that I took to heart, as well as the ideas I came up with on my own, pertained to parenting goals for when my son was older. Considering I often had trouble remembering why I walked into a room, I knew there was no way I would retain all these great ideas in my head. I needed a tool to help me keep track of all the practical parenting tips I received from friends and family. In the absence of an available tool, I decided to make my own.
I started with a simple formula: Primarily, my parenting strategy tool had to be easy. Somehow this easy tool would have to accomplish four goals:
Of course, I had to face some practical realities: First and foremost was the fact that I am a champion procrastinator, and the bigger the project the more I tend to procrastinate. I struggle with strategizing a week’s worth of dinners, let alone formulating a parenting strategy that would stretch over two decades! Plus, I couldn’t sit down and write out a parenting strategy if I wanted to, because who has that kind of time? Besides, as my son grows, I am also growing. The world is changing. Any effective parenting strategy is going to have to be flexible, reflecting steadfast values while taking into account modern realities.
The combination of that requisite fluidity and my inclination to avoid daunting projects is why the foundation of Coda is a simple, brief template for an entry called a ticket. Every parenting goal is its own ticket. The subject matter of a ticket could be anything from faith to finances. Contents can be silly, practical or profound in nature.
Tickets would be compiled in a journal of sorts: The Coda Parenting Navigator. I chose the word “Coda” because it reflected its dual purpose: To build what is essentially a family code, and because when completed it would be a parenting swan song. The hard copy becomes a legacy and physical heirloom meant to be handed down to the child when he or she is grown, which they can refer to throughout their life and use as a foundation when they start their own family.
Building Coda’s framework came next. Of course it made sense from the outset to include a “chapter” for every age up to 21. Categories were a different story. They came about in an effort to make sure I had a truly well-rounded approach, and also because there are plenty of areas that I value but have no real gift for. After months of wrestling with it, I settled on 12 broad categories:
The final piece of the puzzle was that Coda had to include extended family. By inviting grandparents, aunts, uncles or close family friends to contribute tickets, we honor them. And by contributing, they affirm their commitment to the child. The child’s life and the lives of future generations are enriched by the accumulation of tickets from parents, grandparents and extended family. Their Coda becomes a treasure trove of guidance; both of practical knowledge and of deeply-held beliefs and traditions. This last puzzle piece fit perfectly, and I exhaled. Finally, I had a way of organizing my parenting strategy! My son was 18 months old.
Suddenly, after being on the receiving end of so much kindness and generosity as a new mom, I now had something to contribute to the parenting community. It seemed like a reasonable assumption that there had to be plenty of people who would appreciate Coda. As soon as Coda was built, I began my quest to grow it from my own little project into something parents all over the world could use.
Trust me when I tell you I’m not a parenting expert. This tool isn’t about advice or admonishment. Who am I to tell you the best way to raise your own kids? Rather, the Coda Parenting Navigator is designed to help parents (or anyone who is taking an active role in the life of a child) develop his or her own personalized parenting strategy, based on their own values, goals, family traditions, and priorities. It’s a tool to help you consider, plan, and implement the things you most want to accomplish as a parent. You fill in the content, because it is entirely up to you to decide what lessons are beneficial and appropriate. Coda simply helps you craft your own strategy.
I hope you will enjoy using this tool as you plan what, how, and when to teach the kids in your life about what matters most to you. As an added benefit, I hope you gain a deeper insight into your own priorities and values as you strategize what lessons you most want to teach. I firmly believe that the closer we are in touch with our own values and can align our lives accordingly, the happier and more fulfilled we will be. In fact, the very act of living a life that is closely in line with our individual values is, in and of itself, a profound lesson to teach our children.
This tool came about, not because I have a lot to say on the topic of parenting, but because I have so much to learn. I eagerly look forward to learning from you and hearing about your experiences with Coda.
I wish you the very best as you continue the difficult and rewarding work of child-rearing. After all, loving a child comes naturally, but parenting requires a plan!
Founder, Coda Parenting Navigator