Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Hard Questions



What are your really trying to teach your kids?  The thought came to me suddenly as I was getting ready for bed last night.  The follow up question even more pressing than the first, And are you actually teaching them these things?

See Lamp had left some toys in my room last night and as I passed them on the way to the bathroom I  thought that I should have made sure she picked them up.  I'm always reminding my kids to pick up their toys, crayons, dolls, books, etc when they're done.  Yes you can play but for heaven sakes pick up when you're done! Which is when the thought happened... what are you really trying to teach your kids? Picking up after themselves?   

It's a common, even cliche, tale... the idea or dream vs. the reality of having children, a career or marriage. When it comes to children the oft seen Facebook quote comes to mind, I was such a better parent before I had kids.  If you're anything like me you had some very big ideas about what type of parent you were going to be before a positive pregnancy test was even a glimmer in your eye.  Obviously I wasn't going to make the same mistakes my parents made (this is everyone's #1 right?) and because I had really mastered patience while I was still single of course I was never going to yell (huge eye roll), creative endeavors would abound, and the world all around us would be our classroom.

I don't meant to sound cynical.  These are good things and often many of them do happen. However, if I'm honest with myself I find that it's easy to let fatigue and a general weariness get the better of me while I slip into auto-pilot mode and more or less fumble through each day.  In some ways this actually gels well with a parenting philosophy I believe in which is not to over schedule my children and that playing should be a big portion of a child's free time.  But still, the word that keeps coming to my mind is intentional.  I want to intentionally make choices about my parenting, not accidentally stumble through some OK choices.  At least not all the time.  Some accidental stumbling is totes part of the master plan.

Additionally, one aspect I didn't anticipate when daydreaming of my future awesome mom self was the reality of who I am meshed with the reality of who these little people are.  Like the example of the toys being left in my bedroom and wanting them picked up... This need for tidiness was not something I thought about in reference to parenting, but it's definitely a part of how I parent.  My home is not perfectly clean at all times, but I am one of those people who can't function well in a messy space therefore an emphasis on picking up after ourselves is a big part of how I parent. To me this isn't necessarily a bad thing, because the truth is I will go ape if the house is a wreck and that does no one any good.  Trying to focus all my energy and effort into changing who I am i.e. being someone who is OK with a messy house is also not the point.  It's OK to be me and to have needs and desires that are also met.  What is not OK is if my need for a clean house trumps everything else.  It's about finding that balance between what I need and what they need.  So another question, am I achieving that balance well?

Between being intentional and finding that balance of needs I find myself trying to rearrange my parenting efforts.  I only get one chance at raising these beautiful babies of mine and while mistakes are expected I don't want to blow it simply by not thinking about it in the first place.

Perhaps you remember when B and I went to listen to Ira Glass speak last summer and how one of the things that struck me the most was how they had to work really hard to create magic moments on the radio.  Ira said, "These funny moments, these great quotes don't just happen.  As a producer you have to tease them out of people. You really have to work to make these spontaneous, magic moments happen."  We have probably all experienced truly spontaneous family/parenting magic that couldn't have been made up or forced by anyone.  But usually good things take a lot of work and effort.  And I would argue that even those random moments that 'just happen' are due to consistently doing a lot of good work behind the scenes that make magical moments possible at all.

As parents we are the producers of our very own family show.  Which is a pretty amazing job when you think about it.  So again I ask myself, What are you really trying to teach your kids?

In no particular order here are some things I jotted down.

1.  Creativity.  More planned artistic exploration.  No brainer.
2.  Kindness + compassion.  And closely related anger/temper control.  If I expect them to be able to control their emotions, I had better be able to model that I can control mine.  (spoiler: I am not good at modeling that.)
3.  They belong to our family and our family is awesome.  A strong sense of family belonging is key!
4.  Service.  Thinking of others and serving others just for the sake of making someone else feel loved is important.  


I'd LOVE and I mean really love to hear your thoughts about being an intentional parent.  What are the things you really want to teach your kids?  When people say things like "I want to give my kids more than I had" it seems like they're usually talking about material things, but I'm always trying to think of the non-material ways I can 'give my kids more than I had.'  Also, do you find Ira's quote to be true in relation to family? Thoughts?  

12 comments:

  1. Love this post. So great. I've been a fan of intentionality for about 10 years---ever since I read William Doherty's "The Intentional Family." He is an incredibly well-respected marriage and family therapist and researcher. This book talks about how families can make ritualize that help them enact the values they want to promote in family life. If nothing else, the chapter on Christmas (he gives attention to a lot of specific holidays and events in addition to day-to-day family life) is a must-read for everyone with a family who celebrates Christmas.

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    1. I'll have to check that book out--thanks for the recommendation. I like the idea of intentionality centering around rituals or traditions. Thanks!
      (ps--also thanks for your comments in the post re: the Talk... as I was out of town I didn't have the chance to respond like I wanted but I read each and every persons comments...you had some great insights).

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  2. Leah Valera10:57 AM

    One of the things I am trying to teach my girls is that their feelings matter. As the eighth child out of nine I was constantly told by siblings and my parents to "just get over it" and "grow a thicker skin". This led to now, as an adult, constantly feeling like my opinions, my feelings and thoughts don't matter and aren't valid. I want to validate my daughters feelings. I want them to know that it is okay to be mad or sad when things don't go their way. I let them be mad or sad, and validate those feelings. That doesn't mean I let her do everything she wants, or let her scream or have fits, but I do let her have her feelings, while teaching her how to control her actions. This is one of the hardest things I have to teach.

    I also follow Celebrate Calm on Facebook, and listen to the parenting CDs. The founder is Kirk Martin, and I love what he says about parenting.

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    1. Leah--I hear you on that one. I also try really hard to treat my children with respect as individuals and not treat them like they're "just kids" and therefore making their opinions and anything else they have to say silly and unimportant. We're not really raising kids, we're raising adults. And thanks for the FB and CD recommendation...I could stand to learn how to celebrate calm.

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  3. there are three big things that i want for my children:

    1. i want them to be hard workers
    2. i want them to be kind
    3. i want them to be spiritually self reliant

    i've had those goals long before any of them were born and think about them often as i parent. i hope that they will help me to pick the right battles as i get into the teenage years. i also like the third item on your list and i think i'll add it to my own (merriee brown boyack talks about family identity in her book, "the parenting breakthrough," which i recommend). i like the reminder to be more intentional about cultivating these characteristics and will have to think up some concrete ways to teach the principles i'm hoping to instill in my kids.

    also, i'm totally with you on the clean house. i can't function well as a mom when my environment is out of control.

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    1. Yes to #1! I do think that is something my mom instilled in me... so thank goodness for that. And glad I'm not the only mom who needs more clean than chaos.

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  4. Great post. When I was a young parent there were certain things I wanted to do differently than from my childhood….something I think most all parents think about. However, I read somewhere about that time a quote that went something like this: "Sometimes we are so busy trying to give our kids what we didn't have as a child, that we neglect to give them the good we DID have." That made me re-evaluate my priorities. Sometimes when our bucket is full in some areas…we don't think much about it…we can take for granted all the little things our parents did for us, and forget to make those good things priorities in our own parenting. Just my thoughts.

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    1. GH--I totally agree with you. I think it can be very harmful to be reactionary in our parenting, especially when it comes to the things we didn't like as kids. We do need to be thoughtful about both the good and the bad. And I think most of us can find at least a few things our parents did right. ;) Good thoughts.

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    2. Tamara5:11 AM

      Hi, I just wanted to chime in and say yes, yes! I find myself with two little ones outside of my home country and far from my family. They know nothing of where I come from, and it has become really important for me to let my family come through me when I can. Through songs, stories, traditions, but also through some of the negative bits. When I lose my temper and say something that makes me feel like I'm turning into my mom, I may check myself, but also I try to be okay with it, because maybe it means they get to know her a little bit, too.

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  5. I definitely try to intentionally be me every day of my life. It's really important to me that I wake up every day and choose the life that I have. But being an intentional parent is somehow never on my radar. I'm more of a "Hey! I'm living my life and trying to learn how to love better. Sounds like a crazy adventure. Wanna join me?" type of parent. Not much to feel guilty about, and not much to even be specifically intentional about.

    Also, I'm lazy. And that helps. :)

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  6. Penelope Rose4:39 PM

    Do you read 71 Toes? Shawni talks a lot about "deliberate parenting" in a way that is totally relatable and understandable. My family is not LDS, but since my girls were tiny I have put a lot of Shawni's practices into use.

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  7. Millie4:47 PM

    I really relate to what you're saying and it also opened my eyes to something. I have always made my two older girls pick up after themselves and even help pick up other household messes, but I never make my youngest clean up after herself. She has CF, but she is perfectly capable of picking up her toys and paper scraps (she does a lot of collages) herself. I have to stop babying her and let her help out around the house like her sisters do. Thank you Miggy for bringing this to my attention!

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