Wednesday, April 22, 2015
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?